The Ice kept fighting to the very last buzzer, but didn’t get the ending they were looking for.
A night after losing 9-2 in Red Deer, the Kootenay Ice had a significantly improved effort on Saturday night but couldn’t squeak out a win against the Swift Current Broncos.
The Ice and Broncos traded goals all night, but it was Swift Current who came out on top winning 4-3 on a deciding goal that came off of the skate of Kootenay defenceman Troy Murray into his own net.
It was a heartbreaking way to end a night that showcased the resiliency of the Ice from start to finish.
“I thought our work ethic was way better [but] you could tell that we were tired,” said coach Luke Pierce after the game. “It’s a game of mistakes [and] we made a couple more than they did.”
The Ice got off to a tough start as they allowed the Broncos to get a chance on the power play just 24 seconds into the game. Broncos forward Lane Pederson capitalized on the man advantage and beat rookie netminder Jakob Walter.
“[The Broncos] have a really good power play and we prepped for it [but] they just made a really good play,” Pierce said on the early goal. “[Pederson] had a good shot and scored, there was nothing we could do about it [and] I thought we did a good job of battling back after that.”
Vince Loschiavo tied the game up on a rush goal assisted by Matt Alfaro and Barrett Sheen near the seven-minute mark of the first period, which was enough to go to the first intermission at 1-1.
The second period started with a bang as the Broncos’ Ryan Graham dropped the gloves with Ryan Pouliot in a spirited round of fisticuffs less than a minute in. Unfortunately, less than two minutes later the Broncos regained the lead thanks to a goal from Kaden Elder.
Once gain, the advantage would be short-lived as a two-on-one power play rush for Matt Alfaro and Jake Elmer ended in a fantastic finish for Elmer’s first career WHL goal.
Elmer picked the top corner and his perfectly placed shot not only knocked goalie Taz Burman’s water bottle into the corner, it sent everyone in the building to their feet.
“[Getting my first goal] is definitely a big monkey off my back,” Elmer said on his second period tally. “It was a good milestone for me but I [have to look ahead] and bring it [next game].”
With less than a week of experience playing with the Ice, Elmer has quickly made his mark with the team and has impressed his new coach.
“[Elmer]’s been a good addition to our team, he’s been vocal on our bench and he’s positive and upbeat,” he said. “We need that. There are a lot of guys that are like beaten dogs on our bench, to bring a guy in that’s excited and just wants to play [can] rub off on people.”
The Broncos grabbed another lead with less than three minutes to go in the second when an errant Dom Schmiemann shot bounced right off the boards behind the net and onto the stick of Kole Gable who roofed it to beat Walter.
After assisting on the team’s first two markers, Matt Alfaro came up big again in the third period. Taking a pass from Cale Fleury, Alfaro grabbed the puck and deked right through a Broncos defenceman before sailing a shot top corner to tie the game early in the third.
“[Alfaro] played great today, he showed that he’s one of the high calibre players in this league,” Elmer said. “He was really good and a difference maker for sure.”
The Ice were hot following the goal and nearly found the winner with several chances in the ensuing minutes. Unfortunately, fatigue reared its ugly head and near the midway point of the frame an unfortunate bounce effectively ended their night.
Leading Broncos scorer Tyler Steenbergen retrieved a puck behind the Ice net and flung it out front where it connected with Murray’s skate and beat Walter cleanly for the game-winner.
Although the Ice looked to have tied it up once again with five minutes left in the game after Noah Philp grabbed a break in front of the net and Kootenay jammed in the rebound, despite the red light and horns, the referee never called it a goal.
“Their argument was that we pushed the goalie in, but I’ll take that all day for our guys driving the net and trying to score,” Pierce said. “[The referees] couldn’t review [the play], unfortunately, so it was a tough break.”
The Ice have now dropped both their meetings with the Broncos this season in 4-3 regulation losses. Kootenay will play for the third straight day tomorrow as they take on the Edmonton Oil Kings for the third time this year.
“There’s no excuses, [the schedule] is something you have to deal with,” Pierce said of the tough stretch of the schedule they’re in. “That’s the life of being a WHL player and a lot of teams go through it … we just have to be a lot hungrier earlier in the game.”
Puck drop for tomorrow’s game is at 4 p.m. at Western Financial Place.