In the end, the Kootenay Ice simply outscored the Calgary Hitmen.
Indeed, it took till the final minute for Ice sniper Jaedon Descheneau to pot the game winner to lift his team to a 5-4 final and even up the series at two games apiece.
It took an odd-man rush with teammate Zach Franko to make it happen.
“I just looked up to see what options I had,” said Descheneau. “I saw Franks driving the net and we [had] talked about finding a lane to get pucks to the net and I moved to the middle and it created something for me and I put it on net and luckily it went in.”
WHL playoff action now shifts to Calgary for Game Five on Thursday.
It was eerily similar to Monday’s game, as the goals piled up throughout the first two periods. The two teams actually held each other off the scoreboard for most of the final frame, until Descheneau’s game winner with less than 60 seconds left on the clock.
Kootenay had the edge after the first 20 minutes, but Calgary came back and took a brief lead before the Ice knotted it again after 40 minutes of play.
Skapski had another tough night and was pulled in the middle period after allowing his fourth goal in 18 shots. Wyatt Hoflin played out the rest of the game and was unbeaten in 20 shots.
Hoflin also played for just under six minutes on Monday night in Game Three, replacing Skapski in the second frame to play out the remainder of the period.
“I got a taste of it yesterday—that probably helped,” said Hoflin. “Made a big save yesterday, so my confidence was up.
“Today, I got in there and made a couple saves…In the third, I just wanted to be solid, just play shutdown hockey and that’s what I did.”
Descheneau praised the younger backup for his work in the crease.
“Last game he played well too, before Skap came [back] in,” Descheneau said. “We got confidence in both our goalies. They’re tremendously talented goalies and whoever plays is going to play well for us.
“Hoff stepped in for us today and played well.”
Instead of trading goals, the Ice built up a lead this time, enough to hold a one-goal edge after 20 minutes.
Austin Vetterl got the first play started driving to the net on the backhand with Luke Phip picking up a loose puck and roofing it at 3:02. Sam Reinhart doubled the lead three minutes later, somehow finding a hole through Hitmen goaltender Chris Driedger on a sharp-angle shot.
Jake Virtanen replied for Calgary just after the halfway mark, beating Skapski from inside the face-off circle.
However, Kootenay restored the two-goal lead when Franko caught Driedger on his stomach and snapped a high shot home for Kootenay’s only powerplay goal.
The Hitmen responded two minutes later as Ben Thomas snuck in from the point and ripped a shot bar down to make it a one-goal game after 20 minutes.
In the second period, Greg Chase took advantage of a Kootenay turnover to even up the score. Calgary took their first lead three minutes later on a shorthanded goal from Pavel Padakin, which got Skapski pulled from the crease.
Kootenay knotted the game back up roughly a minute after Padakin’s goal, with Levi Cable crashing the net and shovelling an uncovered puck across the goal line with his body. Though the play went to review, it stood as a good goal.
The Ice had a glorious chance to pull ahead in the third period with 1:47 of time with a two-man advantage, but the Hitmen were able to make the kill.
Hoflin also made some big stops, notably on a chance from Virtanen, who nearly stuffed in a wraparound. The Kootenay goaltender also was able to shake off a big collision after a Calgary forward drove to the crease from the sideboards.
NOTES: Kootenay Ice defenceman Landon Cross left the game in the second period and didn’t return. Linden Penner, fresh off a two-game suspension for a cross-check to the face of Ice forward Zach McPhee, was given a two-minute boarding minor on the play. With his game winning goal and an assist, Descheneau is now leading the WHL playoff scoring race at 10 points, followed by Sam Reinhart in second place. Kootenay will host Game Six on Saturday night at Western Financial Place. Tickets are on sale this week, and the box office will open at 10 a.m. on game day.