You can lock it in.
The Kootenay Ice will finish the 2014-15 WHL regular season as the first wild-card seed in the Eastern Conference following a 6-3 victory over the Lethbridge Hurricanes Wednesday night.
The triumph clinched the top wild-card position for the Ice, who used one game in hand on the Edmonton Oil Kings to pull out of reach of their Central Division rivals from the Alberta capital.
“We had a really good killer instinct in the second period and a couple individuals a little sleepy to start the third period, but definitely a big win for us,” said Kootenay Ice head coach Ryan McGill over the phone from Lethbridge. “We’re finding ways to win and we obviously want to finish off strong.
“You want to finish as high as you can in the regular season and make sure you give yourself the best chance to have success.”
Wednesday’s win is the fourth in a row for a Kootenay Ice team seemingly finding its stride heading towards post-season play.
Killer instinct was a succinct way to sum up the second period for the Kootenay Ice Wednesday night.
Tied 1-1 after 20 minutes of play, the Ice rattled Hurricanes starting goaltender Jayden Sittler for four goals in the second period.
Jaedon Descheneau provided the goal-scoring bookends with his 33rd and 34th tallies of the season. Sandwiched between came a short-side shelf shot from Ryan Chynoweth and a breakaway beauty from Zak Zborosky.
The Regina native snapped a 15-game goalless drought by tallying twice in Wednesday’s win.
Zborosky started the night by sending his 17th of the season past Sittler on a jam play on top of the crease to tie the game 1-1 in the first period before notching his 18th of the campaign in the second period.
“He had a couple chances early that their goalie made good saves on,” McGill said of Zborosky. “Then his first goal was from the goal crease. That’s how he’s got to score. He’s got to get inside. He’s got to be a second- and third-effort player. He has the ability to find the net. He’s just got to make sure he gets inside and uses second- and third-effort. Tonight, he did that.”
Zborosky finished with two goals and two assists, which pushed his season totals beyond the 40-point plateau for the first time in his career. The 2015 NHL Entry Draft-eligible forward has 18 goals and 41 points heading into the final weekend of the season.
The host Hurricanes pulled back within two early in the third period, with Pavel Skumatov and Brady Reagan providing the punches to make it a 5-3 game.
But that’s as close as things got.
Ice forward Tim Bozon put the final nail in the coffin, registering his 34th of the season with another short-side goal that redirected on its way towards Sittler and Kootenay walked away with a 6-3 decision.
Goaltender Wyatt Hoflin appeared in his 65th game of the season, tying Mackenzie Skapski (2012-13) for games played by a goaltender in a season.
Hoflin turned aside 18 of 21 shots for his 36th win of the campaign.
At the other end, Sittler made 21 stops in a losing cause.
Descheneau finished with two goals and an assist, pulling into a tie for the team scoring lead with Luke Philp. The two forwards are deadlocked with 81 points apiece heading into the final two games of the regular season.
Tyler King provided two helpers for the Ice.
Hurricanes captain Jamal Watson opened the scoring in the first period.
The Ice close out the regular season with a pair of weekend games against the Calgary Hitmen.
The Hitmen visit Cranbrook Friday night with a 7 p.m. puck drop at Western Financial Place.
The two teams trek to Calgary for the regular-season finale at the Scotiabank Saddledome Sunday afternoon at 2 p.m.
Notes: The Kootenay Ice scratched D Dylan Overdyk, F Austin Wellsby, F Vince Loschiavo and D Tanner Faith (shoulder, three to five months) Wednesday night…