Ice heat up for wins over Broncos, Tigers

Kootenay puts in a strong performance against Swift Current, and ride some brilliant goaltending to beat the Medicine Hat.

Kootenay Ice forward Austin Vetterl takes the puck through the neutral zone during WHL action against the Swift Current Broncos on Friday night at Western Financial Place.

Kootenay Ice forward Austin Vetterl takes the puck through the neutral zone during WHL action against the Swift Current Broncos on Friday night at Western Financial Place.

Winning isn’t everything, but it feels pretty good.

The Kootenay Ice picked up a pair of victories during home action this weekend, beating the Broncos 3-1 on Friday and surviving the Tigers 4-3 on Sunday.

The latter win was especially sweet in the home barn, as Kootenay previously lost 5-2 in Medicine Hat on Thursday evening.

The Medicine Hat loss, plus a defeat by Calgary earlier in the week, were games that assistant coach Jay Henderson was not happy with, blaming poor efforts for the end results.

The players addressed their performances in a team meeting before heading into the weekend, according to Tim Bozon.

“We had a long meeting,” Bozon said. “After the game against Calgary, we didn’t play the game we wanted to play. We came into Medicine Hat and we were not ready to play again.”

That meeting translated into a better showing over the last two games, more so against Swift Current, which Henderson was pleased to see.

“Finally, I thought we outplayed them, I felt like we deserved to win that game, I liked the way we came out and responded well after a poor performance,” Henderson said.

“Tonight [Sunday], again, it wasn’t the ideal game, but we found a way to win and that’s what good teams do.”

Kootenay came to play against Swift Current, as Bozon scored a pair of goals and Wyatt Hoflin made 21 saves on the road to victory.

Graham Black opened the scoring for Swift Current before Austin Vetterl poked the puck across the line in a scramble to answer back for Kootenay.

Bozon sniped the game-winner from the slot in the third period, and scored an empty net goal, after Vetterl gave him a gift during a two-on-none rush towards an empty crease.

“I wanted to score and I see Boz there and thought maybe I better just pass it in case I do miss the open net,” laughed Vetterl.

“I put it on Boz’s stick—just sharing the love I guess.”

Despite surrendering an early goal, Kootenay came out with some fire and tied it up before the first period ended. Swift Current put on some pressure in the middle frame before Kootenay dominated at the end of the contest.

“We haven’t had a big first period in a while, so it’s always good to get the momentum early in the game,” said Bozon. “When you press and get lots of scoring chances in the first period, it gives you a lot of confidence throughout the rest of the game and that’s why we did pretty good tonight.”

After a day of rest, Kootenay faced the Tigers again—this time on home ice—and survived a late push to win 4-3 on the back of a brilliant 51-save performance from goaltender Mackenzie Skapski.

Despite being outshot by a 2-1 margin in the first period, the two teams were tied up at 2-2.

Jaedon Descheneau opened the scoring, taking advantage of a turnover while all alone in front of the Tigers net and pulling a nifty deke to stuff the puck past goaltender Daniel Wapple.

However, Tommy Vannelli scored a powerplay goal and Chad Labelle notched a maker a minute apart to secure a one-goal lead.

Jon Martin evened it up before the period ended, snapping a shot from the slot top shelf over Wapple on a feed from Landon Peel.

Descheneau pulled the Ice ahead in the middle frame, scoring a carbon-copy of his first goal after another turnover right in front of Wapple.

“We went hard on the forecheck and their D coughed up some pucks for us and luckily it came out to me and it was just me and Wapple and I put ‘em in,” said Descheneau.

Zak Zborosky rang a shot off the post and in while rushing the zone and firing over the glove of Wapple on a sharp-angle shot for a two-goal lead five minutes into the third period.

However, Jacob Doty made it an interesting game in the latter half of the frame, jamming the puck under Skapski during a scramble in front of the crease.

With an empty net and six attackers buzzing, Kootenay was able to weather the storm at the end and earn the win, despite being outshot 54-20.

“That’s way too much work for any goalie. Fifty-four shots on net, that’s should never happen, and obviously he’s a good goalie and we’re lucky to have him tonight,” said Henderson.

Kootenay gets a brief break before heading to Lethbridge for a midweek contest against the Hurricanes on Wednesday.