The Kootenay Ice earned their first win of the 2014 WHL pre-season, defeating the Lethbridge Hurricanes 2-0 Friday night in the Crowsnest Pass.
Veteran forward Zak Zborosky scored the game-winning goal late in the first period and a 27-save combined effort by goaltenders Jayden SIttler and Keelan Williams would keep the Hurricanes off the board.
“We wanted to see guys that are on the bubble to make the team in competitive situations,” said Kootenay Ice head coach Ryan McGill following the game. “I think we still need to build consistency within that, but at least we’re starting to see that.”
Sittler earned the start in net turning aside 19 shots before being replaced by Williams at the 10:19 mark of the second period. Williams carried on where Sittler left off, stopping all eight of the shots he faced
Friday night marked the final opportunity for both Sittler and Williams to make their case to be Wyatt Hoflin’s backup this season, as the veteran Ice netminder is slated to start the team’s final pre-season game Sunday versus Calgary.
“I thought they both made saves when we needed them,” McGill. “They both played very well.”
Kyle O’Connor added an insurance marker for the Ice shortly after Williams entered the game in the second period.
Though there was no offense to speak of in the third period, the contest heated up physically with three separate scraps breaking out to close the game. Austin Wellsby started things off by dropping the gloves with Hurricanes defenceman Thomas Lenchyshyn less than two minutes into the final frame. From there, Ryan Chynoweth took on Lethbridge forward Reid Nemeth and Austin Vetterl went toe-to-toe with Hurricanes defenceman Andrew Nielsen with less than two minutes remaining in regulation.
Wellsby already has one goal to his credit this pre-season and showed a different side of his game in dropping the gloves tonight.
“He’s still got a lot to learn,” McGill said of the 17-year-old Chilliwack product. “He stuck his nose in there and he did a good job with that, but we’d like to take a little more hesitation out of his game. We’d like to see him just go and get in on the forecheck with hesitating and looking around.
“He thinks the game real well. We just need him to play a little more on instincts.”
Defenceman Dylan Overdyk dressed for his first exhibition game of the year for the Kootenay Ice. The 17-year-old St. Albert native had missed the tail end of training camp and all three pre-season tilts in Kennewick. He added an assist on O’Connor’s second-period marker.
Shane Allan and Vetterl added helpers on Zborosky’s winner while Alex Chirva also got in on the scoring with an assist on O’Connor’s goal.
Stuart Skinner went the distance between the pipes for the Hurricanes, stopping 25 of 27 shots directed his way. The Edmonton native doesn’t turn 16 until Nov. 1.
The Ice will look to carry momentum from tonight’s win through the weekend as they close out the 2014 WHL pre-season Sunday afternoon with a 2 p.m. matinee affair against the Calgary Hitmen back in Blairmore.
“We need to see really good habits from the beginning [of the game], and a real consistent effort towards their identity as a player,” McGill said looking forward to Sunday’s pre-season finale in regards to those still fighting to make the club.
The 2014 WHL regular season begins for the Kootenay Ice Friday, Sept. 19 when they visit the Red Deer Rebels.