The Kootenay Ice wrapped a four-game eastern road swing by splitting a two-game set with the Brandon Wheat Kings this past weekend.
Friday night, the Ice used the shootout as the avenue to victory for the second game in a row, edging the Wheat Kings 3-2 courtesy Jaedon Descheneau’s skills-competition tally. The Ice previously defeated the Regina Pats 5-4 in the shootout Wednesday night.
Saturday, the Wheat Kings exacted revenge, knocking off the Ice 6-4.
“I liked our team’s play [Friday] but [Saturday] I didn’t think we had any competitiveness,” said Kootenay Ice head coach Ryan McGill Sunday afternoon. “Some of our guys had the mentality that they were satisfied with only having to get two points. It was right there for us.
“We know how desperate we are for points. I’ve said before, sometimes this team isn’t committed. We’re only going to go as far as they want to go.”
Ice goaltender Wyatt Hoflin turned in a 32-save, first-star performance to backstop his team to victory Friday. The 20-year-old native of Sherwood Park, Alta., also turned aside three of four Wheat Kings attempts in the shootout, the lone goal coming off the stick of Rihards Bukarts.
Bukarts forced the overtime period with his 28th of the season with 3:27 to play in regulation after Ice forward Matt Alfaro had put the Ice ahead 2-1 midway through the third period.
Ice captain Sam Reinhart opened the scoring with a power-play tally in the second period, before Wheat Kings forward Morgan Klimchuk tied the game 1-1 in the final minute of the second.
Saturday, it was Peter Quenneville’s time to shine as the 20-year-old Edmonton native tallied scored twice, including the game-winning marker, in a 6-4 Wheat Kings win.
Hoflin was yanked after giving up three goals on 11 shots, as Jayce Hawryluk, Bukarts and Ivan Provorov combined to chase the Ice netminder after only eight minutes of action.
Keelan Williams came on in relief, turning aside 28 of the 30 shots directed his way.
Despite the efforts of Williams, a two-goal response from Tim Bozon and a third-period rally fuelled off goals from Rinat Valiev and Jaedon Descheneau, the Ice came up short as Klimchuk sealed the victory with an empty-net goal.
Goaltender Jordan Papirny made 27 stops for the win Saturday night.
The Ice get back to practice Tuesday in preparation for a Friday home date against the Red Deer Rebels.
With eight games remaining on the regular-season slate, the Ice sit in the Eastern Conference’s first wild-card slot, holding a seven-point cushion on the Edmonton Oil Kings. The Oil Kings have two games in hand on the Ice.
“We want to be consistent with out play,” McGill said. “I’d like to see a few players play with more courage in hard areas of the game so that when we go into the playoffs, we can rely on everybody.
“I shouldn’t have to squeeze it out of them. It should come from within the group. It should come with having the will to win and having the will to succeed and do really well. At this point, I’ve said it before, the team’s got to take over from the coaching staff at some point and we haven’t seen that yet.”
For the Kootenay Ice, the final eight games of the season all come against Central Division opponents: Calgary Hitmen (2), Lethbridge Hurricanes (2), Medicine Hat Tigers (2), Red Deer Rebels (2).
Video highlights: Kootenay Ice 3 at Brandon Wheat Kings 2 (SO) (Friday, Feb. 27):
Video highlights: Kootenay Ice 4 at Brandon Wheat Kings 6 (Saturday, Feb. 28):