Kootenay may be known as the Ice, but they are red hot right now.
The Cranbrook WHL-based club extended it’s win streak to five by downing the Medicine Hat Tigers 3-2 at Western Financial Place on Wednesday night.
Brock Montgomery scored a pair of goals, while Jaedon Descheneau and Sam Reinhart extended their point streak to 11 games in the assists column.
Reinhart, who had been listed day-to-day with a lower body injury, didn’t miss the game and notched two assists, while Descheneau was in on all three goals.
“It’s nice to see the streak continue,” said Descheneau, “but the main thing is we got the win and the two points and we’re closer to the playoffs now.”
Luke Philp broke a 2-2 tie in the third period to lift Kootenay to the win, while Hunter Shinkaruk and Dylan Bredo had the goals for Medicine Hat.
Kootenay’s record of 12 wins in 13 games has rocketed them out of the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings and into playoff contention, as they sit four points behind the Tigers in ninth place.
Montgomery said games against division rivals are four-point affairs, because the winner takes two for the win, while the loser doesn’t get a chance to make those two points back.
“It’s huge,” said Montgomery, of the win. “Obviously, they’re a team we’re trying to catch and when we play these kinds of teams, it’s a four-point night.”
“…We can’t afford to give any points away and I think every guy in the room knows that and that’s how we’ve been playing lately.”
Special teams was the deciding factor, as both Montgomery’s goals came on the powerplay, while Kootenay’s penalty kill shut down an important two-man advantage in the final frame and only allowed one goal with a man in the box.
“They like to be on the powerplay and they’re good on the powerplay,” said Montgomery, “but we did a good job of shutting them down and we managed to put the puck in the net on some great plays from Sam and Desch, so it was a huge special teams game.”
Ice stopper Mackenzie Skapski was solid in net, turning away 26 shots while Cam Lanigan made 22 stops for the Tigers.
Medicine Hat got the better start, applying some consistent pressure and getting rewarded at the end of the frame on a powerplay goal from Hunter Shinkaruk.
The Tigers’ sniper got the jump on an Ice defenceman as he entered the zone, received a pass from Miles Koules and banged in a shot for the lead.
Kootenay’s best chance came from the offensive zone face-off circle, when Reinhart ripped a shot off a feed from Jaedon Descheneau.
Medicine Hat had a scare late in the period, after Austin Vetterl checked Jacob Doty from behind into the boards, but the Tigers’ forward got back up and stayed in the game.
Doty got physical himself in the following frame, levelling Tanner Faith in the corner, and dropped the gloves with Joey Leach, who went in to dispense pugilistic justice.
Faith looked dazed and was slow to get up, needing help from trainer Cory Cameron, who took the 17-year-old defenceman to the dressing room.
Ice assistant coach Chad Kletzel said after the game that Faith will be day-to-day.
Doty took a charging minor on the play, and the Ice responded on the scoreboard, when Montgomery finished on a passing play between Reinhart and Descheneau.
The Tigers regained the lead when Dylan Bredo picked up a fat rebound at the side of the net and converted just before the halfway mark.
However, with 10 seconds to go in the middle period, Montgomery found the back of the net again on another powerplay, tapping in a cross crease pass from Reinhart to pull things even.
The Tigers had a chance to break the game open in the third period with a two-man advantage for 46 seconds, but the Ice were able to shut it down.
Later, as the Tigers were attempting to break out of their zone, Luke Philp stole the puck at the blue line and dished it off to Kyle O’Conner. The 16-year-old put a shot on net and Philp put the rebound into a gaping net with 6:08 to go.
Despite the advantage of two extra players from a powerplay and pulled goaltender, the Tigers couldn’t find the equalizer in a tense finish to the game.