The Kootenay Ice ate their wheaties over the weekend, feasting on a pair of wins over the Brandon Wheat Kings.
Kootenay’s offensive production came out at 12 goals in a 7-3 win on Friday evening and a 5-2 victory the following night at Western Financial Place.
“We’ve had a little bit of not-so-good puck luck at home, and I think we’ve earned the right and earned the opportunities tonight and last night to score those goals when we’re taking advantage of them,” said Ice head coach Ryan McGill. “It’s not because we’re throwing anything different at them, I just think we’re getting our opportunities to get at the net now.”
The Ice are now on a season-high three-game win streak, adding in a midweek defeat of the Rebels in Red Deer last Wednesday.
Saturday was Believe in the Gold night, which raised over $4,000 that will go to the campaign that supports families battling childhood cancers. The team auctioned off game-used sticks in a silent auction, with Sam Reinhart pulling in the highest amount at $870.
Kootenay will return the favour of another two-game mini-series when they head to Brandon in February.
Ice goaltender Wyatt Hoflin got the win on Friday night, making 28 saves, while Mackenzie Skapski drew back in net on Saturday, returning from injury to make 24 stops for the victory.
Sam Reinhart picked up his third career hat trick on Friday evening as Kootenay built up a 5-0 lead by the halfway mark of the game.
Zak Zborosky and Jon Martin opened the scoring in the first period, while Reinhart added a pair and Levi Cable notched a marker in the second period.
But then, the momentum shifted, and Brandon scored three unanswered goals.
Peter Quenneville and Ryan Pilon pushed back by the time the frame ended, and Ryley Lindgren tallied in the third period to inject some life into the Wheat Kings bench.
However, Cable struck again five minutes after Lindgren, and Reinhart — intercepting a cross-ice pass at the Kootenay blue line — skated down and scored on a shorthanded breakaway to complete his hat trick.
“It’s definitely been a while, anytime you can get three in one night—it’s definitely a special feeling,” said Reinhart. “It definitely gives yourself a little bit of confidence.”
It was a closer game the following night, as Brandon surrendered an early lead while Kootenay took off with four unanswered goals.
Wheat Kings defenceman and New York Islanders prospect Ryan Pulock went coast to coast and slipped a backhander past Skapski to pull ahead less than two minutes into the game.
“It was a quick start with the second shot of the game, Pulock went end to end and scored on me, so that was a little bit of an eye opener for me early on,” said Skapski. “But I felt like I settled in as the game went on and I felt really comfortable in the end, maintained control and felt closer to myself.”
Jaedon Descheneau drove to the net and snapped home a slick cross-ice pass from Tim Bozon on an Ice powerplay to even up the game by the end of the first period.
Brandon regained their lead in the middle period, with John Quenneville collecting a loose puck in the slot and firing it home.
Reinhart tied it up 10 minutes later, and Cable tallied shortly after as Kootenay jumped ahead for a 3-2 lead after 40 minutes.
Reinhart scored again in the third period, and defenceman Rinat Valiev lit the goal lamp with a bomb from the blue line.
With the distance being what it is between Cranbrook and Brandon, a pair of two home games makes sense, from a scheduling perspective. However, both teams were busy, with Brandon in the middle of four games in five nights, with Kootenay doing the same.
“It’s obviously easy to come here in the morning and look at the video and make a few adjustments on how you need to get better,” said McGill, “but really, at the same time, with both teams playing four games in five nights, it really all about will.”
NOTES: Victoria Royals defenceman Isaac Schacher scored his first career WHL goal in a 5-0 shutout of the Kamloops Blazers on Saturday. Schacher, a Kimberley native, developed with the Kimberley Dynamiters in the KIJHL before making the jump to major-junior hockey this season. The Subway Super Series shifts to the WHL this week, and Sam Reinhart will play in both games, while Jaedon Descheneau will only suit up for one.