The Kootenay Ice embodied the classic tale of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde this past weekend, earning a 2-1 overtime victory against the Spokane Chiefs Friday before blowing a 4-1 lead in a disheartening 6-4 loss to the Calgary Hitmen Saturday.
“We have a team here that has a really hard time with following directions,” said Ice head coach Ryan McGill over the phone following the loss. “You have to look no further than the coach…Obviously our teaching methods aren’t correct and we’re going to have to figure out a way to get [the players] to understand that if they follow the game plan they will have success.”
The loss in Calgary drops the Ice (2-3-0-0) below .500 once again after momentarily having pulled even following Friday’s electric win over the Spokane Chiefs.
“When you have a 4-1 lead in this league, you have to make sure you play with that lead properly,” McGill added. “You have to make sure your leadership group is onboard. Clearly right now, the leadership group isn’t on board.”
The Ice were outshot by a combined total of 76-62 over the weekend’s two games, a statistic of particular concern to McGill. Wyatt Hoflin did his best to weather the barrage, turning aside 36 shots against the Chiefs. Saturday did not go as well for the veteran keeper as the Calgary Hitmen victimized him six times on 39 shots, including four tallies in the third period.
“We turn pucks over in the neutral zone because we try to play too much one-on-one hockey,” McGill said of the high shot count. “Our players are so highly skilled and so good that we try to beat people one-on-one and it [results in] a turnover going back in towards our net.”
The Ice held a 4-1 lead midway through the second period and entered the final period with a 4-2 advantage. It was the first team this season the team entered the final 20 minutes of play with a lead on the scoreboard.
Despite having chased Hitmen starting goaltender Mack Shields in the second period, the Ice were unable to put any pucks past reliever Evan Johnson, who stepped in and stopped 16 shots to earn the come-from-behind win. Johnson got exceptional run support as the team in front of him ripped off four goals in the third to erase the deficit.
Friday night was a slightly different story as the Ice rallied late in an exhilarating win at home over the Spokane Chiefs.
“The biggest thing is we got the two points,” said Kootenay Ice assistant coach Jay Henderson Friday. “It wasn’t the perfect game by any means, but I thought the guys competed for the most part. The execution wasn’t where it needed to be for the full 60 minutes. At times it was okay, but overall, the guys found a way to win and that’s what we’re here for.”
After Chiefs forward Keanu Yamamoto gave the visitors a 1-0 lead early in the third period, forward Zak Zborosky knotted the game 1-1 with less than two minutes to play in regulation and forcing overtime at Western Financial Place. Fans in attendance were brought out of their seats with Zborosky’s late marker before Jaedon Descheneau set fireworks off in the building when he sniped the game-winning goal with 2.9 seconds remaining in the extra period.
“You always want to leave a mark in the league as [being] a good team at home and [make it] hard for other teams to come here and play” Descheneau said following the victory. “We battled today. We have a lot of improvement to make, obviously, but we never quit and we scored when we needed.”
Descheneau registered a goal and an assist Friday, adding another marker in Calgary Saturday. Forward Luke Philp grabbed one helper Friday before notching two power-play goals in a losing effort Saturday. Defenceman Tyler King also had a three-point weekend with three assists against the Hitmen.
Rookie forwards Vince Loschiavo and River Beattie combined to earn their first ever WHL points Saturday in Calgary. Loschiavo sent his first WHL goal to the back of the net after receiving a feed from Beattie during the first period.
The Ice continue on the road later this week, facing three games in three nights throughout Saskatchewan beginning Wednesday, Oct. 8 in Regina.
Notes: Ice forward Vince Loschiavo was inserted into the lineup Saturday in place of fellow rookie Jared Legien, who sat after dressing Friday versus Spokane…D Rinat Valiev missed his fourth and fifth games of the season due to a lower-body injury…F Jon Martin left Saturday’s contest with an undisclosed injury and did not return. Monday, the team announced Martin was expected to miss a week with an upper-body injury…