Captain Brayden Point registered a hat trick Wednesday night, leading the Moose Jaw Warriors to a 4-3 victory over the visiting Kootenay Ice.
Point, a Calgary native and gold medallist with Team Canada at the 2015 IIHF World Junior Championship, tallied a pair of sparkling goals to give his team a 2-0 lead in the first period before completing the trick with a third-period marker that stood as the eventual game-winner.
“Brayden Point put his team on his shoulders tonight,” said Kootenay Ice head coach Ryan McGill over the phone following the game.
“[Point] is committed to every shift he plays, with and without the puck.”
The performance of Point, who sits second on the Warriors with 20 goals and 50 points in 33 games, served as a stark contrast to the play of some of McGill’s most dangerous offensive threats.
“Zero killer instinct and very inconsistent play with some of our top players,” McGill said.
The Warriors built a 3-0 lead in the second period when Torrin White snapped a breakaway opportunity over the glove of Ice starting goaltender Wyatt Hoflin.
Austin Vetterl and Rinat Valiev responded before the middle period came to a close, but Point’s third-period goal restored the two-goal advantage for the hosts.
Ice captain Sam Reinhart, who suited up with Point at the 2015 IIHF World Junior Championship, scored past the midpoint of the final period to cut the lead to one, but that’s all the Ice were able to muster.
Warriors goaltender Zach Sawchenko made 30 stops and McGill credited his strong play as one of the other factors in the Warriors’ Wednesday night victory.
At the other end, Hoflin turned aside 14 of the 18 shots sent his way.
The Ice power play was 0-for-5 on the night, while the Warriors were 1-for-2 with the man advantage. Coming into Wednesday’s game, the Moose Jaw power play was ranked 22nd in the WHL with a 14.1 per-cent success rate.
“Commitment to keeping it simple. Commitment to attacking quickly off of a pass. Commitment to really trying to develop a killer instinct around the net. Be determined to score,” McGill said of what he needs from his power play. “We’re not there. We’re perimetre, we’re casual and we’re lacking that killer instinct right now.”
Wednesday’s tilt was a physical one, with the two clubs combining for 73 minutes in penalties.
Leading the way was Warriors forward Jaimen Yakubowski, who was slapped with 20 minutes in penalties after receiving a five-minute major for checking to the head (accompanied by a game misconduct) in the third period. Yakubowski caught Reinhart at the blue-line and lunged at the Ice captain.
Yakubowski also fought Ice forward Austin Vetterl in the first period.
Vetterl dropped the gloves with Yakubowski in response to a hit on defenceman Troy Murray. The 17-year-old Murray left the game and did not return, while Vetterl was handed an instigating minor and 10-minute misconduct on top of his five-minute fighting major.
“I don’t think we responded very well at all [to the physical play],” McGill said. “Yeah, there was a couple fights. That, to me, is not response.
“I think [our players] always stick up for each other, but our commitment to having killer instinct with opportunity and on the power play was not good. Not good.”
The loss was the fourth in a row for the Kootenay Ice, leaving them four points back of the fifth-place Edmonton Oil Kings in the Central Division race.
In the WHL’s Eastern Conference wild-card race, the Ice cling to the second and final wild-card slot — three points ahead of the Warriors.
Next up, the Kootenay Ice travel to Prince Albert for a date with the Raiders Friday night.
Notes: Ice D Rinat Valiev returned to the lineup after missing two games this past weekend due to tonsillitis…The Ice went without D Bryan Allbee (healthy), D Dylan Overdyk (healthy), D Tanner Faith (shoulder) and F Austin Wellsby (healthy) Wednesday night…