Taking on the Central Division-leading Medicine Hat Tigers with a chance to make a statement to the rest of the WHL, the Kootenay Ice came up empty-handed Wednesday night, falling 7-3 at Western Financial Place.
“We knew they were a fast team with small guys and a lot of skill and good defense. They move the puck well and I think we got off the game a little bit in the second period,” said Ice forward Tim Bozon Wednesday night. “Against one of the best teams in the league, if you do that, you won’t have a chance to win the hockey game.”
The Tigers carried a 2-0 lead into the second period after goals from defenceman Tommy Vannelli and left-winger Blake Penner. By the end of the second, Medicine Hat had blown things open.
A mere 41 seconds into the second, Trevor Cox took a breakaway feed from Vannelli and cashed in to make it 3-0. Less than seven minutes later, Chad Labelle scored his first of the season with a wrist shot from the right circle that somehow found a way through the glove of Ice goaltender Wyatt Hoflin.
Trailing 4-0, Kootenay Ice head coach Ryan McGill yanked Hoflin from the crease. The 19-year-old native of Sherwood Park saw his night come to an end after only facing 15 shots.
Things didn’t go much better for his replacement Keelan Williams, as Cox victimized him late in the second, extending the lead to 5-0 through 40 minutes.
In relief of Hoflin, Williams finished the night with 14 saves on 17 shots.
With a power-play goal to open the third period, Kootenay forward Jaedon Descheneau put an end to the shutout bid for Tigers’ netminder Marek Langhamer. Just as quickly as Descheneau pulled the hosts to within four, Mason Shaw went the other way and found the back of the net to restore Medicine Hat’s commanding five-goal advantage.
A pair of quick goals from Bozon and captain Sam Reinhart got the Ice back within three, but once again, the Tigers pounced just as fast to kill any momentum.
Reinhart’s goal made it 6-3 with 4:55 remaining in regulation. Within 21 seconds, Trevor Cox was back on top of the Kootenay crease, sending his third of the night to the back of the net.
“We just tried to create as much as we could,” said Ice defenceman Tyler King of the third-period push. “We got a little bit going there, but it just wasn’t enough.”
Bozon finished the night with a goal and two assists, as did linemate Sam Reinhart.
With the three-point night, the native of Valbonne, France, now has nine points (4G, 5A) in seven games this season.
As for Reinhart, he continues to find the scoresheet in almost effortless fashion, pushing his season point total to 13 (4G, 9A) through five games since returning from the NHL’s Buffalo Sabres.
The loss brings to an end the season-high, five-game winning streak for the Kootenay Ice (8-14-0-0). As for the Tigers (16-4-1-1), Wednesday’s victory makes for two consecutive. After losing 3-2 in Brandon, the Tigers returned home to double up the Red Deer Rebels 4-2 Tuesday night.
Both teams return to action Friday night. The Ice host the Lethbridge Hurricanes (5-12-3-1) at 7 p.m., while the Tigers head back to Alberta to visit the Red Deer Rebels (11-9-2-1).
Notes: The Ice skated one man short Wednesday, with F Kyle O’Connor, F Jon Martin, F Levi Cable and D Tanner Faith all unavailable due to injury…The Medicine Hat Tigers skated two players short, with D Ty Stanton, D Connor Hobbs, F Markus Eisenschmid, F Anthony Ast and F Chad Butcher all unavailable…With two assists Wednesday, Ice F Sam Reinhart pulled into a tie with Jarret Stoll for the all-time lead in franchise assists with 162…The Tigers and Ice next meet Saturday in Medicine Hat…