Duncan McGovern got his first ever start in net for the Kootenay Ice on Friday and proved to be a very reliable goaltender.
Playing in Brandon, Manitoba against the Wheat Kings, the 17-year-old netminder made 33 saves on 35 shots to backstop the team to a 4-2 victory.
McGovern was acquired by the Ice last week in exchange for a fifth-round draft pick in 2019 and has served as the team’s backup ever since.
Getting his first chance to stop pucks in relief of Kurtis Chapman in the third period of Wednesday night’s game against the Regina Pats, he earned the start against Brandon and was instrumental in Kootenay’s first road win since September 30.
Heading into the night, the odds seemed stacked against the Ice. With a 1-5-0-0 road record and carrying a four-game losing streak away from their home rink, the team appeared to be in a mismatch with the 6-1-0-1 home record Wheat Kings, who had a four-game unbeaten streak in their building
That notion, however, was quickly put to rest when Kootenay scored four unanswered goals to kick off Friday night.
After starting the game with a heroic breakaway save, McGovern was given some relief as Sebastian Streu scored his first career goal in the WHL to open the scoring.
Taking a pass off the boards from Vince Loschiavo, the German-Canadian got a break alone with Logan Thompson and slid a perfect backhander five-hole with speed.
Five minutes later, the Ice scored again with Kaeden Taphorn winning a battle behind the net and finding Michael King alone in front of the net.
Taphorn would then score his own goal, less than three minutes later, by burying a big rebound following a rush opportunity for Gilian Kohler.
Although Cale Fleury scored on a power play point shot at the 18-minute mark, and gave the team a 4-0 lead, the Wheat Kings managed to give themselves a trace of life with a man-advantage goal of their own in the final minute.
Finding a hole above McGovern’s glove at the side of the net, Ty Lewis gave Brandon hope.
In the second period, the Wheat Kings mounted heavy pressure but McGovern stymied them at every turn.
While the Ice put a puck in the back of the net, with Kroeker finishing a give-and-go with Alec Baer, the goal was waved off due to goalie interference.
Ty Ettinger then cut the Kootenay lead to two halfway through the game, with a wide-open point shot, but the teams went into the third seperated 4-2.
In the final twenty minutes, Brandon mounted significant pressure and outshot the Ice 16 to nine, but could not managed to put a puck past a desperate, sprawling, but locked-in goaltender.
The game ended with rough play, as Schael Higson took a couple of headshots at Baer in the corner in the last minute, leading to a skirmish that resulted in four players receiving 10-minute misconducts.
In the win, the Ice went 1-for-6 on the power play and 1-for-2 on the penalty kill. With one assist, Kroeker pushed his point-streak to seven games (four goals, eight assists) and Kaeden Taphorn was the game’s first star after his first ever multi-point performance.
With the victory, the Ice have returned to .500 with an 8-8-1-0 record and find themselves tied for first place in the Central Division with the Red Deer Rebels (8-7-1-0). Kootenay has a rematch with Brandon tomorrow night, before heading home for a week of rest.