Ice head into hostile territory

Kootenay back at the Saddledome for Game Five with series even at 2-2.

Kootenay Ice forward Jaedon Descheneau heads into Calgary territory in Game Four at Western Financial Place.

Kootenay Ice forward Jaedon Descheneau heads into Calgary territory in Game Four at Western Financial Place.

It’s like a hockey version of the shootout at the OK Corral.

In the last two games, the Kootenay Ice and the Calgary Hitmen have scored 22 goals.

The series opened up when it shifted to Cranbrook, as the two teams brought an even 1-1 record into Western Financial Place.

They’ll leave with it even once again at 2-2 as it shifts back to Calgary for Game Five on Thursday.

It hasn’t been a banner spate of games for Ice goaltender Mackenzie Skapski and his Hitmen counterpart in Chris Driedger. Skapski got the hook on Tuesday, replaced by Wyatt Hoflin, who picked up his first career WHL playoff win.

Holfin made 20 saves to make it happen, playing out most of the second and third periods to make it happen.

On paper, the Hitmen have a deep bench throughout their forward and defensive corps. That hasn’t seemed to affect Kootenay’s ability to score, even in dealing with an injury-depleted defence, which is missing Landon Cross and Tyler King.

The Ice big guns have come out in playoffs, with Jaedon Descheneau setting a franchise record with six points in Game Three. He leads the WHL post-season scoring race at 10 points, with Sam Reinhart one behind in second. Luke Philp and Zach Franko have also chipped to add to the bulk of the scoring, while defenceman Jagger Dirk has been on fire at the point with two goals and seven points.

Franko, the late trade-deadline acquisition from Kelowna, has scored four goals during the series and isn’t fazed by the last two wild games.

“It’s intense,” Franko said. “Anytime you get a chance to play Calgary, it’s a huge rivalry, and it’s playoffs, so that just kind of doubles it. The score can be high or low, it’s always going to be an intense game.

“We’re ready for it and we’re ready for the test coming up.”

The Ice special teams has been another storyline for the series. The Kootenay powerplay currently reigns on top of the post-season standings at 36 per cent with nine goals in 25 opportunities.

On the flip side, the Hitmen’s powerplay is ranked eleventh, at 13 percent.

On the penalty kill, Kootenay is sixth overall at 86.7 per cent, while Calgary’s struggles with Kootenay’s powerplay puts their penalty kill efforts in last place at 64 per cent.

Franko knows the team is heading back into the lion’s den when the puck drops at the Scotiabank Saddledome on Thursday.

“Calgary is a real hostile environment, they’re really good at home and we got to be good on the powerplay—I think that’s been huge this series for us,” said Franko. “On top of that we need to bear down defensively and capitalize on our chances offensively.”