It all comes down to one final game.
The Kootenay Ice staved off elimination once again with a 4-2 win at Western Financial Place to force Game 7 on Monday evening at the Scotiabank Saddledome.
Luke Philp scored the game winner, finishing a beautiful backdoor pass from Tim Bozon and beating Hitmen netminder Mack Shields up high.
Bozon also opened the scoring, with Ice goal production coming from Jaedon Descheneau and Sam Reinhart.
Calgary got their offence off a pair from Adam Tambellini.
Ice goaltender Wyatt Hoflin, who earned second star honours, turned away 25 shots, while goaltending duties were split between Brendan Burke and Shields, after Burke left the ice with an injury in the second period. Collectively, the two stoppers made 25 stops.
Special teams was once again a factor, as Kootenay got two powerplay goals in four chances with the man advantage. The penalty kill was perfect in shutting down the Hitmen while shorthanded three times.
“I really liked the way that we killed the penalties off in the third period,” said Ice head coach Ryan McGill. “I thought that was a big momentum lift for us and Hoflin made some huge saves for us at the end.”
Only 38 seconds into Kootenay’s first power play of the game near the halfway mark of the opening period, Bozon teed up a massive slapshot when the puck deflected into the face-off circle from the corner boards.
After that, the Ice never played from behind all game.
“It’s important [getting the first goal] in any series,” said McGill. “I think that we’ve proved that we can play when we’re down and I think that we did a really good job of not breaking and just bending a little when we had the lead.
“It’s been an emotional series and I think our guys have learned a lot so far and we’ll continue to do that.”
The Ice rode that lead into the second period and appeared to double it, when Ryan Chynoweth stuffed home a loose puck that had gone airborne from pinging off the post.
However, it was waved off due to a hand pass.
Just after the quarter-mark of the period, Chynoweth put an innocent-looking shot on Burke, but the Hitmen goaltender had to leave the ice and was replaced by Shields.
Soon after, Calgary struck for their first goal with none other than Adam Tambellini evening it up from a snapshot in the slot.
Descheneau pulled the Ice ahead with five minutes to go in the period, taking advantage of a neutral zone turnover and beating Shields on a partial breakaway.
“I had a little step on the other defender and was able to get a lucky bounce off my foot to have an empty net,” said Descheneau. “It was not an easy goal to get.”
The Hitmen lost over-ager Connor Rankin for much of the period after he went hard into the end boards, but he was able to return later in the frame.
Starting off the final frame on the penalty kill, the Kootenay Ice were cut down to a two-man advantage for 24 seconds when Matt Alfaro joined Martin in the box.
However, the Kootenay penalty killers were able to hold off the Hitmen attack and return to full strength.
Calgary began to play desperate heading late into the third period, and Bozon was able to feed a backdoor pass to Philp, who was streaking down the right wing towards the net. Philp netted his fifth goal of the 2015 post-season campaign to give the Ice a two-goal cushion with 2:15 to go in the game.
Less than 30 seconds later, with Shields out of the net, a footrace for a puck in Calgary territory turned into a near-line brawl after an Ice player was hit into the boards.
That touched off nine minor penalties—five to Calgary and four to Kootenay—along with eight subsequent 10-minute misconducts.
After the officials sorted out the scrum, Calgary took the play into the Ice zone and Tambellini got his second goal of the game on a deflection from Radel Fazleev.
A minute later, with 24 seconds remaining in the game, Tambellini was whistled for slashing and Reinhart found the empty net to seal up the win.