There’s wining pretty, and winning ugly, but all that matters, as the cliche goes, is getting the two points.
Kootenay engineered a come-from-behind 3-1 victory against the Calgary Hitmen on Tuesday night, scoring three unanswered goals—two from Jon Martin—in the third period to make it happen.
“We were battling all game and just a really high-paced game, really high-tempo and we ended up pulling through, so it was really great for all the boys,” said Martin, who now has three goals to the season.
Kootenay had an atrocious powerplay—scoreless in five opportunities in the first period alone—but capitalized once in eight chances over the course of the game.
Goaltender Mackenzie Skapski left after the first period to an apparent injury, and Wyatt Hoflin stepped in, allowing one goal in 28 shots.
Kootenay defenceman Jagger Dirk blocked a slap shot from Jake Virtanen at the end of the opening period and had to be helped off the ice. He returned to the bench in the second frame, and took a puck to the face from a deflection, but finished his shift and stayed in the game.
Virtanen opened the scoring early in the middle period, jumping on a rebound after Brady Brassart threw the puck on net from the sideboards.
Both Reinhart and Martin rang the puck off the post in the second period, while Brassart missed a wide open net on a Calgary powerplay, shooting over the crossbar with a sprawled Hoflin in the crease.
Jaedon Descheneau finally made the Hitmen play for their penalty troubles, solving goaltender Chris Driedger with a low shot at the side of the net on Kootenay’s eight powerplay. Descheneau’s marker, his 14th of the year, makes him the leading goal-scorer in the Eastern Conference.
Even for 10 minutes, Kootenay pulled ahead with some help off a lucky deflection. Luke Philp put a slap shot on Driedger during an odd-man rush, and the puck deflected off of Martin’s body and across the goal line as he drove to the net.
The officials reviewed the play, but called it a good goal.
“We kind of talked it over on the bench, kind of had it all planned out and were shocked that it kind of worked,” said Martin.
Late in the game, Jaynen Rissling went down—taking Sam Reinhart with him—which freed up Martin, who picked up the puck, waited out Dreidger, and backhanded it in. As Reinhart got up, Rissling tripped him again, for good measure, but avoided another trip to the penalty box.
The Hitmen pulled Driedger with 90 seconds left in the game and put some pressure in Kootenay’s zone, but Hoflin and the team were able to repel the last-ditch effort.
After Hoflin made a save in the final minute, a pushing and shoving match broke out in front of the net, as emotions from both sides seemed to boil over.
Landon Cross posted a fight with Joe Mahon in the first period, and also assisted on Martin’s second goal.
“It was a battle all game and it was just coming down to who wanted it more and the guys really showed a lot of heart tonight and it was good to see,” Cross said.
It was the second straight game where attendance dipped below 2,000.
Kootenay holds down sixth place in the Eastern Conference, one point behind the Oil Kings and Swift Current Broncos, which are tied up for fifth and fourth, respectively.