You can get out your brooms, but the Kootenay Ice won’t be moving onto another round just yet.
Despite being their fourth straight win against the Calgary Hitmen, Thursday’s 4-3 victory was merely the finale of an odd four-game mid-season divisional series and not a playoff triumph.
It certainly must have felt good, however.
After beating their historic rivals twice before the holiday break and pulling off a 4-3 overtime win in Cranbrook on Wednesday, Kootenay added a nail in the Calgary coffin as they closed out the first half of their season with a dramatic regulation win.
As had been the story for the entire series, penalties played a large role in the eventual scoreline.
The Ice had eight power play chances and scored twice, while the Hitmen had four man advantages and zero goals, while also giving up a shorthanded marker — the game-winner.
And last but definitely not least… the replay of Davis's game winning goal 🙌🚨 pic.twitter.com/TPtSQQ90ax
— Kootenay ICE (@WHLKootenayICE) December 29, 2017
After scoring two goals in the Wednesday win, Colton Veloso put in another two on Thursday, while Brett Davis carried a three assist performance into another positive night with the deciding goal in Calgary.
Although it was a happy ending, the Ice had a tough time just getting to the rink. They were stuck on a closed road, which caused the opening puck drop to be delayed by 45 minutes. Once the game did get started, both teams took awhile to heat up.
The first period, without any goals, was fairly uneventful, but saw Kootenay outshoot their opponents 13 to four and establish some quality pressure on Hitmen goalie Nick Schneider.
It was the Hitmen, however, who got on the board first, just five-and-a-half minutes into the second frame with Orca Wiesblatt taking advantage of a young Kootenay defence-pairing on an odd-man rush and putting a puck under Duncan McGovern’s blocker.
Five minutes later, Kootenay tied the game up with Michael King throwing a shot on net while on a rush and having it ricochet off the foot of Alec Baer in front and go in.
Calgary came right back though, and Russian-import Andrei Grishakov made a spin move at the top circle before passing to Mark Kastelic, who ripped a bobbling puck over McGovern’s blocker.
Ending the period with some animosity, that had reached a boiling point after over 220 minutes of play between the two teams over the past two weeks, Dom Schmiemann and Andrew Fyten picked up late roughing calls and gave the Ice a 5-on-3 power play to start the third.
Failing to beat Schneider with two extra players, Kootenay eventually broke through in the dying seconds of the man advantage as Peyton Krebs got a puck to Veloso, who sent it flying to the mesh with authority.
The season series seesaw swung again, however, a few minutes later and forward Luke Coleman put his team back in the lead with a wicked top corner wrister while on a rush.
Past the midway point, the Hitmen were hurt again by a lack of discipline when a four-minute penalty to Kastelic for high-sticking led to another goal by Veloso, who jammed in a loose puck low, on a play with assists credited to Krebs and Cameron Hausinger.
From there, Schneider stood tall to keep his team in the game, but failed to get sufficient support. Going from hero to scapegoat, Veloso was tagged with a high-stick at the 18-minute mark.
Creating chaos for the Hitmen, the Ice played aggressively while shorthanded and a slough of breakaways led to the big game-winner.
While Colton Kroeker got hauled down on an attempt to get by two Calgary defenders and Hausinger was sent flying into the corner as a result of his one-on-one, his slow return to his feet ended up being a godsend.
Grabbing a timely turnover, Hausinger chipped the puck free to a streaking Davis, who made no mistake alone against Schneider, beating him low glove side.
Shouting triumphantly on his way back to the Ice bench, Davis’ timely goal was enough to seal the deal and give his team their fourth straight win against the same opponent.
Overall, the Cranbrook club outshot the Cowtown boys by 38 to 13 and also improved their record to 17-17-2-0, just four points back of Medicine Hat for first place in the Central Division.
Calgary, on the other hand, did manage to get two points in overtime losses throughout the four-game series, but remain in second-last place in the WHL.
Veloso is now only two goals behind Alec Baer for the most goals on the team, with 12, while Krebs holds onto his position as the top rookie-scorer in the league with two more assists. Veloso and Krebs both have seven points in the last four games, while Davis is on a three-game point streak with a goal and four assists in that span and Hausinger has at least one point in his last five outings.
Duncan McGovern, meanwhile, earned his seventh win of the season and tenth of his career, continuing his excellent rookie campaign.
Kootenay’s next game will be a road match on Saturday in Edmonton, against the bottom-of-the-league Oil Kings, before they return home to play the Medicine Hat Tigers on New Year’s Day at Western Financial Place.
ICE CHIPS: Brad Ginnell made his Ice debut during Thursday’s game after being acquired from the Portland Winterhawks on Wednesday afternoon. Goalie Bailey Brkin also returned to the lineup and served as the team’s backup after missing Kootenay’s previous game due to the flu.