Kootenay Ice battle back for 4-3 overtime win in Calgary

Team shakes off slow start, enter holiday break with dramatic win over rivals to end home-and-home

The Kootenay Ice will enter the holiday season with smiles on their faces after a dramatic finish in Calgary on Sunday afternoon.

Playing in their final game until after Christmas, the team clawed their way back from an early 3-1 deficit and beat the Hitmen 4-3 in overtime.

After a 5-1 win the day before against the same competition in Cranbrook, Kootenay picked up four important points in the standings. Now tied for second place in the Central Division with the Lethbridge Hurricanes, the Ice are 15-17-2-0 and seven points ahead of Calgary.

Despite both teams having taken long bus trips after the Saturday afternoon game at Western Financial Place, the rematch got off to a quick start. Honouring the season, the teams turned on the red lights frequently in the first period.

Calgary got on the board five minutes in, as they took advantage of their first and only power play opportunity. Dom Schmiemann found Jakob Stukel in front of the net, while the Ice were collapsed too low in front of goalie Duncan McGovern, and the Vancouver Canucks’ draft pick lit the lamp.

Less than a minute later, however, Kootenay tied up the game as Michael King grabbed a pass in the slot from Bobby Russell and wristed the puck top-shelf. Four of King’s six goals this season have come against Nick Schneider and Calgary.

Dominating the early goings, in stark contrast to the night before, the Hitmen retook the lead just before the midway mark of the opening frame, as a desperate net-crash play ended up just barely crossing the goal line.

While the Ice bench complained and the in-building replay wasn’t conclusive, Andrew Fyten was credited with his fourth of the season for Calgary.

Continuing to struggle, the Ice were given a break after a Layne Toder interference call, but had a dismal time on their first power play. Grabbing a one-on-one chance shorthanded, Mark Kastelic put a puck through Jonathan Smart’s legs from the top of the circle that, somehow, found its way past McGovern, as well.

The Ice then headed into the game’s first intermission down 3-1, having given up a power play goal and a shorthanded goal during the only special teams’ action of the period.

Playing the role of super-pest to a tee over the home-and-home Hitmen series, Cameron Hausinger chipped in offensively to start the Kootenay comeback in the second.

Five minutes in, Hausinger drew a roughing penalty from Schmiemann and proceeded to redirect Brett Davis’ point shot past Schneider on the man advantage. He continued to get under their skin and played a big role in a series of gifts handed to his team in the second half of the match.

Getting their legs under them, the Ice received four power plays, including time on the 5-on-3 from the midway point of the second to the start of the third. Somehow though, the advantage only seemed to work in Calgary’s favour, as the Ice were held at bay and gave up several dangerous shorthanded chances.

While Kootenay was the better team as the game winded down, it seemed destined to end in the home team’s favour, until a sudden moment of magic with less than four minutes remaining.

Cutting in from the side, Colton Kroeker walked in and was easily stopped by Schneider, but Keenan Taphorn dug in and grabbed the puck before it was covered, which found Alec Baer for a tap-in goal.

Forcing overtime, the Ice ended the night early as a spread-out tic-tac-toe passing play, between Baer, Kroeker and a pinching Jonathan Smart, gave them the dramatic victory.

With a two-point night, Kroeker retook the team’s point lead from Peyton Krebs. Entering their week-long vacation, Kroeker has 29 points in 31 games, while Krebs has 28 in 29 games.

The Ice’s next game is back in Cranbrook on December 27 and another rematch will occur the following day in Calgary.

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