If playing back-to-back games within a 19-hour period wasn’t challenging enough, the Kootenay Ice faced two of the WHL’s toughest this weekend as the Brandon Wheat Kings and Seattle Thunderbirds visited Western Financial Place.
The Ice managed one of a possible four points over the weekend set, falling to the Wheat Kings 3-2 in overtime Friday before dropping a 5-2 decision to the Thunderbirds Saturday afternoon.
“We showed that we can play with those teams,” said Ice defenceman Bryan Allbee Saturday afternoon. “We took Brandon to overtime and I think we had a lot of chances to win that game as well.
“[Saturday against Seattle], even though we lost, when we’re playing our game we can compete with those teams and that’s a pretty big positive to take out of it. We know we can do it, we’ve just got to play that way and find a way through 60 minutes.”
Allbee was a catalyst for the offense Saturday, manufacturing the first goal of the game with a heavy point shot that was redirected by forward Austin Wellsby for a 1-0 Ice lead.
Unfortunately for the home team, the Thunderbirds tallied five straight to take a commanding lead, before Allbee added a late power-play goal in the third period to make it a 5-2 final tally.
A couple quick second period strikes from the Thunderbirds changed the complexion of the game and it was the visitor’s top line doing all the damage.
Only 13 seconds into the middle period, forward Nolan Volcan went hard to the net and was rewarded, redirecting a point shot from defenceman Jared Hauf to give the Thunderbirds a 2-1 lead.
Only 1:09 had ticked off the clock after Volcan’s marker before Mathew Barzal deflected another point shot past a helpless Wyatt Hoflin and just like that, Seattle was out to a 3-1 lead early in the second period.
“We had a five-minute lapse there, right at the beginning of [the second period],” Allbee said. “They capitalized early then we got back to what we were doing but for some reason, for three or four minutes there, we got back to bad habits. Good teams are going to capitalize on those chances.
“We’ve got to find a way to play a full 60 [minutes]. That second period really hurt us.”
Thunderbirds forward Ryan Gropp extended the lead to 4-1, ringing a hot shot off the iron and past Hoflin before the second period came to a close.
Hoflin made 30 saves in the loss, while Flodell was good on 22 of 24.
Perhaps the highlight of the weekend came towards the midway mark of the third period Saturday afternoon.
With Seattle’s top line buzzing and moving the puck efficiently in the offensive zone, defenceman Turner Ottenbreit took a backdoor pass. Staring down an empty net with Hoflin swimming, the Thunderbirds blue-liner fired low along the ice, only to have Hoflin reach back and pull the puck off the goal line with the paddle of his stick.
The effort from Hoflin will certainly stand as a save of the year candidate, and very well could take the cake. It electrified the 1,788 in attendance at Western Financial Place.
It was tough sledding against a tough opponent on the heels of a hard-fought Friday night tilt with the Wheat Kings.
“There are good parts and then there are parts that aren’t good,” said Luke Pierce, head coach of the Kootenay Ice, Saturday afternoon. “We have to take the things we didn’t like and learn from them. For our team, it’s understanding that you’ve got to know your body.
“We looked tired. When that happens — and it’s going to happen over the course of the year — you have to adjust the way you play the game, be a little more basic and follow the plan that’s laid out because your brain isn’t going to react and think as quickly.”
Friday night, the Wheat Kings used overtime to slip past the Ice.
Ice winger Zak Zborosky was on the case once again, putting the first goal on the board for the home team before setting up the game-tying marker late in regulation.
“Compared to the last time we played these guys, we’re a totally different team and we battled all night,” Zborosky said Friday. “We played these guys hard and, yeah, it would have been nice to get the win, but getting the one point is good.”
After falling behind 2-1 late in the third period as Nolan Patrick put the visitors up with a power-play goal, Zborosky made a nice move in tight before slipping a beautiful feed to captain Luke Philp who roofed one up on over Wheat Kings goaltender Logan Thompson to tie the game 2-2 with only 1:39 on the clock, eventually forcing overtime.
In the extra period, the two teams exchanged scoring opportunities before Wheat Kings captain John Quenneville skated in alone on Hoflin, beating the Ice netminder to claim the bonus point.
“We had our chances to win it in overtime,” Pierce said Friday. “Unfortunately we didn’t.
“We talked about wanting to push the pace more and I think that’s a good approach — go and attack. You’ve got to play to win. If you sit back and you’re afraid to lose the game, it’s going to hurt you. I thought we did a good job. We went after it tonight. We out chanced them in overtime, they just capitalized on theirs.”
Wheat Kings forward Tyler Coulter opened the scoring in the first period.
Hoflin made 29 saves, while Wheat Kings goaltender Logan Thompson turned aside 20 pucks.
The Ice will get in a full week of practice before hosting the Medicine Hat Tigers Friday, Nov. 6 at Western Financial Place (7 p.m.).
Daily Townsman Three Stars (Friday):
1) G Wyatt Hoflin, Kootenay Ice (29 saves)2) RW Zak Zborosky, Kootenay Ice (1G, 1A)3) C Nolan Patrick, Brandon Wheat Kings (1G, 1A)
Daily Townsman Three Stars (Saturday):
1) LW Ryan Gropp, Seattle Thunderbirds (2G, 1A)2) C Mathew Barzal, Seattle Thunderbirds (1G, 2A)3) D Bryan Allbee, Kootenay Ice (1G, 1A)
Notes: The Ice went with D Cale Fleury (upper body), D Tyler King (knee), D Dallas Hines and RW Jaedon Descheneau (upper body) both games… Ice RW Max Patterson (upper body) made his return to the lineup Friday after missing seven games… There were 1,873 in attendance Friday at Western Financial Place…
Highlights – Wheat Kings 3 at Ice 2, OT (Friday, Oct. 30):
Post-game with Zak Zborosky – Wheat Kings 3 at Ice 2, OT (Friday, Oct. 30)
Highlights – Thunderbirds 5 at Ice 2 (Saturday, Oct. 31):
Post-game with Bryan Allbee – Thunderbirds 5 at Ice 2 (Saturday, Oct. 31)