It was a heartbreaking night for the Kootenay Ice to say the least.
Although they picked up a point in the standings in the 3-2 overtime loss to the Edmonton Oil Kings, they came very close to winning the whole thing.
After allowing Edmonton to tie up the game at 2 a piece, the Ice’s Austin Wellsby appeared to have scored with less than two minutes remaining on the clock to put them back on top.
The goal light went on, Wellsby threw his arms in the air, the crowd went wild — and the ref emphatically waved off the goal pointing to the penalty box.
The goal was disallowed and Barrett Sheen was given a goalie interference penalty.
“[That was] tough, but it’s the refs decision and not ours,” said Ice forward Matt Alfaro, following the game. “Obviously, when you’re at home and the crowd gets into it, you’re getting behind them and thinking the same thing … it’s tough but we’ve got to bounce back from it.”
Although the Ice managed to kill off the man advantage, three minutes into the 3-on-3 overtime, the Oil Kings struck gold as Anatolii Elizarov beat Payton Lee to give them a 3-2 victory.
Coach Luke Pierce was frustrated with the sequence of events that led to their OT loss.
“I was unhappy [that] I wasn’t allowed to make a line change, I wanted Matt Alfaro out with Peyton [Krebs] just to give a little more composure and they didn’t let me make the change and I was shocked,” Pierce said. “It ended up costing us the hockey game.
“Same thing goes with the call on the goaltender interference. I [didn’t] believe that was a penalty — at worst it [was] maybe incidental contact if they wave the goal off — but to be penalized for it, that’s a double blow.”
Overall though, Pierce was happy with the way his team played against an Oil Kings team that beat them 3-0 less than a week ago.
“I thought we were good [and] probably our third period was our best period of the game,” he said. “We did a lot of things right, we were a little bit sloppy in the first and second with puck management, but I thought we did a really good job in the third and it was [just] a tough way to lose a hockey game.”
The night was a goaltending showdown beginning in the first period, and both Lee and the Oil Kings’ Patrick Dea were able to keep the door shut through the first twenty minutes to set up a tight game going forward.
Ice forward, Barrett Sheen finally got the scoring started six minutes into the second period off a great tic-tac-toe passing sequence initiated by Peyton Krebs.
Krebs, who was playing his first game in Cranbrook as a member of the Kootenay Ice, called for a pass on the far boards and then whipped the puck across to Dallas Hines on the opposite side. Hines threw the puck towards the net and Barrett Sheen jammed it home.
Despite only being credited with the second assist, the crowd applauded ferociously when his name was called over the loud speakers of Western Financial Place. Krebs now has two assists in two career games in the WHL.
“It was a good feeling for sure. Walking onto the ice and seeing the fans [while] wearing the Cranbrook jersey, was pretty awesome,” said Krebs, the team’s first overall pick in the 2016 Bantam Draft. “It would’ve been nice to get the win, but overall it was a good experience.”
Within a minute of the opening goal however, the Oil Kings tied up the game as Brayden Gorda put in an unassisted marker to take some life out of the raucous building.
Then, only two minutes later, the Ice’s veterans combined to regain their lead. Assisted by Cale Fleury and Matt Alfaro, Zak Zborosky scored a magnificent goal from a tough angle as he put the puck under Dea’s arm.
Zborosky’s 17th goal of the year now has him tied for second, with Sam Steel of the Regina Pats and Kailer Yamamoto of the Spokane Chiefs, in WHL goal-scoring behind Michael Rasmussen.
The Ice managed to hold onto the 2-1 lead until 13 minutes into the third period, when forward Noah Philp took a costly hooking call in the offensive zone.
After having failed to score on their first three power plays of the game, the Oil Kings refused to be denied a fourth time and Colton Kehler beat Lee with a good team effort goal, assisted by Tyler Robertson and Branden Klatt.
The Ice then had their goal disallowed and lost in OT.
“We’ve struggled with [3-on-3] this year, [and] that just comes down to confidence,” Pierce said of the game’s end. “We have to manage [our OT] better.”
“It’s hard, especially with the long change,” Alfaro agreed. “Guys like myself and Zborosky who have been around for awhile know how to play it, [but] the younger guys have to get a [little] more practice on it, since we can’t be out there the whole time.
“So, we just have to learn from it.”
Although it was a frustrating way to end the night, the Ice don’t have to wait long to get back to business, as they play the Calgary Hitmen tomorrow night.
“We just have to play like we did tonight [during] the first 50 minutes,” Alfaro said on their next challenge. “We haven’t played [the Hitmen] since the first two games of the season, but they have [added] a lot of different personnel since then, and they’re coming off a long road trip so we’ve got to make sure we come out hard.”
Pierce believes their top priority is to get over this loss and move on.
“These are [hard] ones to get over because you feel like you deserve to win it,” he said. “[The players] have every right to feel that way and you have to channel that into a hunger and make sure you don’t leave any doubt [against Calgary].
“They’re a dangerous team because of how desperate they are … a lot of teams at the end of their trips play their best game, [so] we expect them to come in and give us a tough battle.”
Puck drop for the game against the Hitmen is at 7pm tomorrow at Western Financial Place.