Kootenay Ice defenceman Ryan Pouliot celebrates his game-winning goal over the Red Deer Rebels on Friday night. (Brad McLeod Photo)

Oh brother, Pouliot scores winner for Ice against Rebels

Sibling-rivalry takes centre stage as Kootenay snaps four-game losing streak in emotional home win

He just couldn’t let the kid brother have his day.

After watching his younger sibling score his first career WHL goal in the first period, Ryan Pouliot had to one-up him.

“He bashed me up, so I definitely had to get back at him there,” Pouliot said with a laugh at the end of the night. “I think the game-winner was definitely the way to do it.”

With the Kootenay Ice squaring off against the Red Deer Rebels at Western Financial Place on Friday Night, Pouliot took on his brother Sam for the second time in his WHL career.

At 17 years old, the younger Pouliot is a rookie and Ryan is a third-year veteran. While Sam had a moment he’ll never forget with his first WHL, Ryan scored the game-winner in his team’s 4-3 win.

“I’m really happy for [Sam],” Pouliot said. “It took me a year and a half [to get my first goal], so for him to get it in his first year, that’s [really] good.”

While the two posed for a pre-game photo in warmups, once the puck dropped it was all business.

Unfortunately, the Ice had trouble keeping up with Red Deer in the first period and had a slow start, an ongoing trend for the team.

“We’re losing a lot of sleep and hair and everything else over the frustration of our poor starts [and] tonight was no different,” said head coach James Patrick. “The first 10 minutes were not what we wanted… I think it’s mental, but physical as well. We’re not ready at the drop of that first puck.”

Before the first goal, Ice rookie defenceman Bobby Russell got his bench going with an early fight against fellow 17-year-old Brandon Cutler.

Unfortunately, the tilt didn’t improve his team’s play and Reese Johnson opened the game’s scoring for Red Deer at the nine-minute mark.

Johnson picked up a neutral zone turnover and walked into the Ice zone, firing a top corner snipe over Bailey Brkin’s glove.

Moments later, Sam Pouliot put in his goal with a slapshot that earned his brother a minus one on the stats sheet and sent his Red Deer teammates into a frenzy.

Almost putting a dagger in the Ice’s hearts, Rebels captain Grayson Pawlenchuk was then awarded a penalty shot, after being hauled down on a shorthanded-break. Fortunately, he missed the net.

Capitalizing on their good fortunes, Kootenay started to heat up on a power play with Colton Veloso sliding one past Riley Lamb, after receiving a tremendous pass from Peyton Krebs.

In the second period, the Ice quickly tied the game with Krebs once again picking up an assist, finding Brett Davis who capped off the play with a perfect shot.

“Peyton was really good tonight,” Patrick said. “The playmaking on the first two goals [was outstanding] and he could have had a few more assists. He set Veloso up a couple of times before he actually scored.”

Despite their improved play, the Ice got down again a few minutes later as Czech-import Kristian Reichel stole a puck and deked past Brkin for his tenth marker of the season. Kootenay went into the third down 3-2.

“[In the] second, we had nine minutes of play in their end and then we just [didn’t have] any desperation or urgency which got us in tough positions and we weren’t backing each other up,” Patrick said. “Fortunately, Bailey came up with two unreal saves and kept us [in the game].”

In the final frame, the team showed incredible grit and tied the game a minute in as Keenan Taphorn threw the puck into the middle lane which bounced off a Rebels defender’s stick and in.

Trading chances throughout the period, the Ice were given a huge opportunity when Johnson was given a four-minute high-sticking penalty and Brandon Schuldhaus was tagged with a holding call a minute later.

With the gift of a lengthy 5-on-3 powerplay in the latter stages of the period in a tie game, the Ice threw everything they had at Lamb. While they were held at bay for almost two minutes, Pouliot eventually broke through with a high snapshot.

“We talked about [how] if nothing is working, [just] get it in the paint and try and outbattle them, get some bodies and pucks in the paint,” Patrick said on the timeout he took right before the power play. “I felt that we didn’t do that, but we were still able to come through just before the end of it and I don’t care if it wasn’t pretty, we got it.”

The 4-3 score was enough to hold on for a win and according to Pouliot, the effort showed just how resilient the Ice can be.

“Our start [again] wasn’t the best, but we rallied, regrouped and pushed back hard,” he said. “We got a gift there with that power play [at the end], so it was crucial that we got a goal there [and we did].”

The win snapped a four-game losing streak for Kootenay and leapfrogged them over Red Deer for second in the Central Division. Patrick admitted that it felt really good to win.

“It feels like a long time since we’ve won a game and fortunately a lot of [teams in] our division have done the same thing, so we’ve still been able to hold our spot,” he said. “For the players confidence though, [it helped create a] really good atmosphere, [and] for our fans, it was huge.

In addition to the positive vibes pulsating through the rink and, no doubt, the Pouliot household, it was the Ice’s first win for two newcomers to the roster.

Coming over in the Regina Pats’ Cale Fleury trade, defenceman Jonathan Smart made his debut and 16-year-old forward Cole Muir played his first game in Cranbrook. Both were immediately effective for Kootenay.

“[Smart] might have played 40 minutes tonight,” Patrick said. “He hasn’t had a chance to practice with us, [but] with our defence and how it sorts out, we need to play a guy like that big minutes.

“I liked his skating [and] I liked his stick. He’s not a big physical defenseman, [but] he’s a positional guy who can move the puck and skate.”

Now with a 9-12-1-0 record and definite rivalry brewing with the Rebels, the Ice travel to Red Deer for a rematch on Saturday.

“I’m going to stress the start [for sure],” Patrick said. “I feel like we need to run sprints for 20 minutes before the game so we can be ready when the puck drops.

“I liked our effort, our road effort in Medicine Hat [on Tuesday], it was one of the best we’ve had. If we can play like that, then we can have some success on the road.”

So far this season, the Ice are 2-7 on the road and 2-1 against the Rebels. Puck drop for Saturday’s game is at 7:00 p.m. at the Enmax Centrium.

SUMMARY

1st Period-1, Red Deer, Johnson 7 (McCarty), 9:05. 2, Red Deer, Pouliot 1 (Pratt, McCarty), 9:39. 3, Kootenay, Veloso 6 (Krebs, Kohler), 14:55 (PP). Penalties-Cutler Rd (major-fighting), 6:54; Russell Ktn (major-fighting), 6:54; Dmytriw Rd (tripping), 11:57; Johnson Rd (tripping), 13:28.

2nd Period-4, Kootenay, Davis 7 (Krebs), 1:10. 5, Red Deer, Reichel 10 (Zablocki, Alexeyev), 6:25. Penalties-MacKenzie Rd (hooking), 9:19.

3rd Period-6, Kootenay, Taphorn 2 (Baer), 1:18. 7, Kootenay, Pouliot 2 (Krebs, Hines), 16:31 (PP). Penalties-Hines Ktn (tripping), 11:27; Johnson Rd (high sticking, high sticking), 13:38; Schuldhaus Rd (holding), 14:45.

Shots on Goal-Red Deer 18-12-11-41. Kootenay 13-9-13-35.

Power Play Opportunities-Red Deer 0 / 1; Kootenay 2 / 6.

Goalies-Red Deer, Lamb 1-1-0-0 (35 shots-31 saves). Kootenay, Brkin 4-6-1-0 (41 shots-38 saves).

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