Ice harvest Wheat Kings to wrap up road trip

Kootenay edges Brandon 3-2 in a shootout, follows up with a 5-2 win after a pair of games in Manitoba.

The Kootenay Ice wrapped up a relatively successful road trip into the Prairies this weekend with a pair of wins over the Wheat Kings in Brandon.

The Ice, which had previously played the Warriors and the Pats, won three of their four games during the week-long foray into Canada’s breadbasket.

“Obviously, getting three wins out of four games is good,” said Ice assistant coach Jay Henderson. “We didn’t play very good in Regina [a 3-2 loss], that one stung a little bit, and I think we were pretty luck to get two points out of the first Brandon game.

“But again, points are points at this time of year and we’ll take them. It’s not exactly the way we want to play, but at the end of the day, we found a way to get the win, so that’s the most important thing right now.”

It took a shootout on Friday night, but the Ice got it done with a 3-2 win, following up with a 5-2 victory the next night in a rematch.

With points in both games, team captain Sam Reinhart has now extended his point streak to 17 games, the second-longest active run, trailing Curtis Valk of the Medicine Hat Tigers, who has points in 18 games.

Coincidentally, the Ice are chasing the Tigers for the final home-ice advantage spot in the standings, five points behind with a firm grasp on fifth place.

The two teams will meet this week on Wednesday at Western FInancial Place for an important divisional matchup.

With the two wins in Brandon, the Ice swept all four games that made up the regular season series against the Wheat Kings.

Most of the goals during the 5-2 win on Saturday were scored in the opening period, as Kootenay built up a 4-2 lead on the road to victory.

Kootenay’s offence came from Reinhart, Luke Philp, Jaedon Descheneau, Austin Vetterl and Tim Bozon, while Ryan Pulock and Jens Meilleur responded for Brandon.

Ice goaltender Mackenzie Skapski made 28 saves for the win, while Wheat Kings netminder Curtis Honey was replaced by Jordan Papirny after the first period. Collectively, the two made 39 stops.

Just under two minutes into the game, Pulock struck first for a quick Brandon lead, but Philp answered back just over a minute later.

Reinhart put the ice ahead before the halfway mark of the frame, and Descheneau potted a powerplay goal a few minutes afterwards.

Meilleur cut into the Kootenay lead with just over five minutes to go in the period, but Vetterl scored Kootenay’s third shorthanded goal of the season to restore the two-goal lead.

Skapski and Papirny both shut the door after that, with the Ice outshooting the Wheaties in the second period, while shots evened out in the final frame.

Bozon put the icing on the cake with an empty netter in the final minute, scoring his 100th career WHL goal.

“Saturday was a much better effort, execution was better as well,” continued Henderson. “Friday, I thought we were very lucky to get at least one point, let alone two.

“I thought Brandon deserved a better fate, but we found a way to get the two points and again, at this time of year, all the points are important.”

The night before, Matt Alfaro scored the game-winning goal in the shootout to lift the Ice to a 3-2 win over the Wheat Kings to open their first of two contests in Brandon.

Bozon scored the game-tying goal in the third period to force the shootout, after the Wheat Kings were up 2-1 by the second frame on a pair of goals from Brett Kitt. Reinhart provided the other goal for the Ice, scoring the opening goal of the game.

Skapski guarded the crease with 32 saves, giving up one goal in the five-round shootout, while Papirny stopped 33 shots and surrendered two goals in the shootout.