The Kootenay Ice extended their win streak to three games with a 4-1 victory over the visiting Red Deer Rebels on Wednesday night at Western Financial Place.
Luke Philp scored twice and Sam Reinhart added a goal, while Jeff Hubic earned his first career WHL goal with a empty net marker.
Ice goaltender Mackenzie Skapski had a big game with 29 saves, while Bolton Pouliot stopped 34 shots for the Rebels. Pouliot is currently filling in for starter Patrik Bartosak, who is representing the Czech Republic at the World Junior Championship in Russia.
Kootenay carried a 2-0 lead into the third period, but held on for the win by scoring another pair of goals while holding the Rebels to only one goal scored off a defensive zone turnover.
Their three-game win streak is the third time this season the team has strung together a trio of victories, but head coach Ryan McGill is taking things one step at a time.
“First of all, we don’t want to say it’s three wins, we’re just trying to take it one shift at a time and one period at a time,” McGill said.
Special teams was one of the storylines of the night, as Red Deer’s aggressive penalty kill picked apart Kootenay’s powerplay, with only one breakdown when Philp got his second goal of the game in the third period.
“Tonight would be attributed to a very, very timely powerplay goal,” added McGill. “Their penalty killing is the third-best in the league and we scored a huge powerplay goal in the third period, so that’s huge for us and that’s big for us.”
Kootenay had four chances with the man-advantage—Philp’s goal standing as the only power play marker—while Red Deer was shut out on their only opportunity.
Philp’s pair keeps him in second place for team goal production with 11, while Reinhart and Brock Montgomery are tied for first, with 14 each.
“We’re just buying into all the little things,” said Philp, on what has made the team successful over the last three games. “We’re working hard every night, it’s not come out and work for a period—working hard is a given and we’re doing everything else that’s making us successful here, so it’s nice.”
The Ice had a strong first period and took the lead off a goal from Reinhart. Jaedon Descheneau collected the puck in the offensive zone and fed a cross-ice pass to Reinhart, who tipped it top corner above Pouliot’s glove.
Red Deer had some chances as well, but Skapski made some key saves to preserve the lead.
Skapski continued to make some big stops, including a second period save on Joel Hamilton, who came in on net shorthanded as the Ice struggled on their powerplay.
However, the Ice struck again late in the second period, when Philp spun around a Rebels’ defenceman in the corner and walked out to the slot to snipe the short side top corner.
Philp nearly got another just as the third period began on a breakaway, but Pouliot flashed the leather and batted the puck away with his glove.
Red Deer recovered after that, and played strong as they looked to cut down the deficit, eventually getting rewarded after an Ice turnover in the defensive zone. Wyatt Johnson picked up an errant pass and fed Rhyse Dieno, who beat Skapski low below the glove.
Philp restored the two-goal lead on the man-advantage, dragging the puck from behind the goal line at the side of the net and stuffing it in while Pouliot was out of position.
There was a scary moment near the end of the game when Cody Thiel collided with teammate Brooks Maxwell and dropped down to the ice. Kootenay trainer Cory Cameron joined his Red Deer counterpart, and the two were able to get the Rebels defenceman back on his feet and into the dressing room.
Red Deer poured on the pressure after that, with only a few minutes remaining and in need of a pair of goals. Despite some good pressure in Kootenay’s zone, a blocked shot ricochet the puck past the blue line, and Hubic skated the puck up the ice and fired it into a gaping net for his goal.
In addition to the empty netter, Hubic also had the hit of the game when he demolished Devan Fafard in an open-ice hit in the middle frame.
Kootenay is five points behind the Wheat Kings in the Eastern Conference, with two games in hand against the Wheaties and Regina Pats—their closest opponents in the standings.
Kootenay will get one day of rest before hosting Adam Lowry and the Swift Current Broncos on Friday night at Western Financial Place.