The Calgary Hitmen haven’t forgotten the fact the Kootenay Ice ended their post-season during the 2013-14 WHL campaign, and they made sure that was known Friday night in Cranbrook with a resounding 9-2 victory.
“In no world can you win a hockey game with only two lines,” said Kootenay Ice forward Tim Bozon following the loss. “There are guys on the team cheating. The guys that are working hard are paying the price. That’s not good.
“We need 20 players. You can’t play with two lines. Everybody needs to step up their game, especially after a road trip where you lose two games in a row…You come back and play against Calgary. Everybody should be fired up and pumped to step up their game and play their ‘A’ game but that didn’t happen.”
According to Bozon, Ice head coach Ryan McGill shortened the team’s bench after a slow start to the first period. The hosts trailed the Hitmen 2-0 at the end of the first period, while being outshot 16-5.
The Ice got out to a better start in the second period, cutting into the Calgary advantage less than 90 seconds in.
Using speed down the left wing, Bozon cut hard to the net before sliding a gift cross-crease to Jaedon Descheneau who slammed the puck home to make it 2-1 Calgary.
After a little more than 10 minutes of back-and-forth hockey, the Ice had made a game of it before two minutes put any hope to rest.
“We played really good in the first 10 minutes of the second period,” Bozon added. “We gave ourselves a chance to comeback in the game.”
Hitmen forward Adam Tambellini kick-started a three-goal run for the visitors at 15:38 of the second period, with defenceman Michael Zipp earning his first-career WHL goal shortly after. Beck Malenstyn put the final dagger in the home team with his second of the season at the 17:31 mark of the second period. Malenstyn’s goal gave the Hitmen a commanding 5-1 lead heading into the dressing room after 40 minutes.
Ice defenceman Troy Murray registered his second-career WHL goal 1:15 into the third period before the dam broke as the Hitmen followed up with four straight goals. Captain Kenton Helgesen, who had opened the scoring earlier in the first period, got his second of the night 24 seconds after Murray’s goal made it 5-2.
Hitmen defenceman Loch Morrison was rewarded with his first-career WHL goal less than three minutes later while forward Radel Fazleev ripped off a goal and two assists during the final period.
Calgary forward Greg Chase scored his second goal of the night with a little more than two minutes to play in regulation, rounding out the scoring.
Ice goaltender Wyatt Hoflin battled through 40 minutes and 31 shots before turning the crease over the Keelan Williams for the third period. The Calgary native didn’t get any more help than Hoflin as he faced 11 shots through the final period.
Mack Shields made 19 saves to earn the victory for Calgary.
It was hoped the return of Bozon might spark a Kootenay Ice club that had struggled to compete each night and produce offensively. While Bozon found his way to the scoresheet, the problems on the ice outweighed his contributions.
As a 20-year-old WHL veteran, the native of Valbonne, France is not only being relied on for his abilities in the offensive zone, but also for his experience and leadership as this team navigates the early stages of the regular season with eight WHL rookies.
“Games like that, you want to forget,” Bozon said. “Tomorrow is a new day. It’s a new game. You come with a bit of attitude to the rink. Don’t think about what happened [against Calgary]. It’s not necessarily good to go home and cry or blame yourself.”
The seven-goal margin of defeat represents the largest so far this season for the Kootenay Ice, who fall to 3-10-0-0 as a result. A game that should have been an exciting one, featuring the return of three quality Western League players, instead turned into a blowout.
Apart from Bozon returning, Ice defenceman Rinat Valiev made his season debut after missing the first 12 games of the year with a lower-body injury. The Calgary Hitmen were also graced with the presence of forward Jake Virtanen for the first time this season as he returned from off-season shoulder surgery. Virtanen found his way onto the scoresheet, setting up Chase’s first-period goal.
The Ice hit the road and face-off with the Spokane Chiefs (5-2-3-0) Saturday night at 8 p.m. (MT). The Hitmen head east where they clash with the Central Division-leading Medicine Hat Tigers (10-1-1-0) tomorrow.
Notes: F Jon Martin missed Friday’s game with an upper-body injury…D Jordan Steenbergen and D Cale Fleury were joined by F Jared Legien as healthy scratches…