A Kootenay Ice parade to the penalty box allowed the Prince Albert Raiders to march out of Cranbrook with two points, as the visitors scored four unanswered goals, including three with the man advantage, en route to a 4-2 victory in WHL action Friday night.
By the final buzzer, the Raiders — ranked 14th on the power play heading into the game — had converted on three of seven opportunities.
“It impacts everything,” said Luke Pierce, head coach of the Kootenay Ice, following Friday’s loss. “You kill off the first three and do a really good job. But we’ve seen this movie before. I remember Game 1 of the year against Calgary — same scenario — we killed off the first three. Coaches are too good in this league and players are too good — they’ll figure out what you’re doing, then they exploit you and you’re behind trying to catch up.
“If we keep it three or less, we give ourselves a chance. If we don’t, you’re hooped.”
Indeed, the Ice wound up hooped and it all started to go wrong in the second period.
With a delayed penalty call coming late in the period, Raiders forward Simon Stransky redirected a point shot past Ice goaltender Wyatt Hoflin to tie the game 2-2 with 2:23 to go before intermission.
On the next shift, Ice captain Tanner Lishchynsky was sent to the penalty box for tripping. On the ensuing man advantage, Reid Gardiner struck for his second goal of the game to give the Raiders their first lead of the night with only 44 seconds remaining in the second period.
“In the first period, I was forcing things a little too much,” Gardiner said following the win. “I just tried to simplify it in the second and third, get pucks deep and get my feet moving.
“We started slow — they jumped out to a 2-0 lead there quick and we just had to regain our composure. We had a good few power plays there to kind of get the game within one and tie it, obviously. That third goal was huge to get momentum going into the third.”
Gardiner celebrated in appropriate fashion, pounding his fists on the glass after he tallied his team’s third of the night and the momentum was completely in the hands of the visitors. By the time the contest was over, the 19-year-old native of Humboldt, Sask., had himself a three-point night (2-1-3) and first-star honours.
The third period was essentially a write off for the Ice, as they managed only four shots on Raiders goaltender Rylan Parenteau.
The Raiders’ final power-play tally of the evening came following a Cale Fleury kneeing minor, as 20-year-old Jordan Tkatch gave the visitors a 4-2 lead midway through the third period.
Ice veteran Zak Zborosky was handed an unsportsmanlike conduct minor immediately following Tkatch’s 13th goal of the season, ensuring the Raiders went right back to the power play after having just converted.
By the end of the evening, the parade to the penalty box was led by the Kootenay Ice leadership crew and Pierce wasn’t shy to talk about it.
“I’m tired of talking and going through the same things,” Pierce said. “I just really want to see a response from our group and especially from our leadership group [Saturday against the Medicine Hat Tigers].
“Matt Alfaro’s penalty tonight — bad penalty. Tanner Lishchynsky’s penalty — bad penalty. Zak Zborosky’s — bad penalty. Troy Murray took a penalty. Cale Fleury took a penalty. Max Patterson is the only young guy that took a penalty and I think it was a bit of an accident.
“But I want our leaders — not just the guys wearing letters, any veteran player — to have some pride and make sure that you come and work your butt off. Whatever the result is, be proud of the way you worked and you’ll sleep a little better at night.”
Early on, it looked like the Ice might work their way to a win over a Raiders team that finds itself in hot pursuit of the WHL’s East Division title.
Returning from a short absence due to injury, Ice centre Noah Philp charged down the left wing early in the first period, driving the net hard and making life difficult on Parenteau.
Lishchynsky followed up on the play, chipping a rebound past the Prince Albert puckstopper to give the hosts a 1-0 lead on 2:42 into the festivities.
Another quick strike in the second period saw the 22nd-ranked Kootenay Ice power play convert on what was nothing more than a simple play from sophomore forward Austin Wellsby.
The native of Chilliwack parked his 6-foot-3 frame in front of Parenteau, getting two whacks at a rebound before sending it home for a 2-0 lead.
“There are probably 2,000 people in the stands that think they can coach right now because the message is so easy,” Pierce said. “Tanner Lishchynsky’s goal — where does it happen? Right in the crease — drive the net.
“Austin Wellsby’s goal — what is it? A shot and a rebound — we score. Then you muster three shots in the third period. It’s unfathomable. It’s not like it’s a really tough message to decode or that there’s a loss of communication from your coaches or whoever. That shouldn’t even be something you need to say.
“It blows my mind. But I think we’re so distracted about the penalties, the reffing, whatever else, that we lose sight of it.”
At the end of the night, Parenteau made 18 saves on 20 shots to collect his 15th victory of the campaign.
At the other end, Hoflin was once again busy, facing 39 shots and turning aside 35.
With the win, the Raiders (26-14-3-1) kept hot on the heels of the Brandon Wheat Kings (27-12-2-2) in the race for the WHL’s East Division.
Prince Albert wraps up a three-game Central Division road trip when they face the Lethbridge Hurricanes (32-12-0-0) Saturday night.
“Coming into this year, we had a good mindset,” Gardiner said. “Guys want to prove a lot of people wrong and so far we have… The biggest thing is not hoping to win every night, it’s a mindset of we expect to win every night.
“[The Hurricanes] are playing well the last five or six games. Obviously lots of guys that can hurt us and put the puck in the net. We’ve just got to contain them defensively and then go after them on offence. We’ve got to play a team game and the structure will protect us.”
For the Ice (8-34-3-0), Friday’s loss makes for three in a row with the Tigers (17-22-3-1) visiting Cranbrook Saturday night at 7 p.m
Notes: The Ice went without RW Jaedon Descheneau (shoulder), RW Austin Gray and D Jason Wenzel Friday night… The Raiders were without D Cody Paivarinta (upper body), RW Austin Glover (upper body) and LW Dylan Williamson… Gardiner wasn’t the only player to register a multipoint effort for the Raiders. D Hunter Warner (2A), Stransky (1G, 2A) and Tkatch (1G, 2A) also got in on the action… Announced attendance Friday in Cranbrook was 2,018…
Daily Townsman Three Stars:
1) #19 Reid Gardiner, Prince Albert Raiders (2G, 1A)2) #24 Jordan Tkatch, Prince Albert Raiders (1G, 2A)3) #23 Simon Stransky, Prince Albert Raiders (1G, 2A)