Night after night, the opponent changes for the Kootenay Ice, but night after night, the most dangerous offensive weapons remain the same for the crew from Cranbrook.
Monday night, forward Zak Zborosky registered two goals and two assists, including the overtime winner to guide the Kootenay Ice (3-11-1-0) to a much-needed 5-4 road victory over the Edmonton Oil Kings (3-7-3-0).
“It feels great, I don’t know if there’s any other way to put it,” said Luke Pierce, head coach of the Kootenay Ice, over the phone Monday. “Obviously you’d like to win with a little more control, but it was a battle. It was a gutsy effort from our group and I’m proud of the way they competed.
“It’s really encouraging. We put a lot of emphasis on that game and we talked about treating it like a must-win game in October. Our guys had a real good start and going into the third, we talked about not being afraid of losing again — go out and have some fun, play with some enthusiasm and try to win.”
The four-point effort for Zborosky sets a new single-game career high for the native of Regina. Previously, Zborosky’s highest output in a contest came March 18, 2015, as he registered two goals and three points against the Lethbridge Hurricanes.
Not to be overshadowed by Zborosky’s outing was a four-point effort from captain Luke Philp.
The native of Canmore tallied once and assisted on three others, including setting Zborosky up on the overtime winner.
The big-point performance isn’t anything new for Philp, who registered five points in Game 5 of last year’s first-round playoff series with the Calgary Hitmen.
While Zborosky and Philp, once again, were the best players on either side of the puck, the Ice and Oil Kings battled back and forth from start to finish.
“They just continue to impress and do everything they can to help us win,” Pierce said.
After Oil Kings forward Brandon Baddock opened the scoring with his fourth of the season only 4:25 into regulation, Zborosky wasted no time tying the affair.
The 6-foot, 174-pound winger collected his ninth goal of the season only 19 seconds after Baddock’s opening tally to draw the game even 1-1.
The Ice staked out their first lead of the night late in the period, as rookie Jason Wenzel — a natural defenceman skating as a forward once again — took a nifty feed from centre Noah Philp, snapping a quick shot past Oil Kings starting goaltender Alec Dillon.
But as has become all too regular of an occurrence, the Ice surrendered a late-period marker once again, as Tyler Robertson capitalized with a short-handed tally and only eight seconds remaining in the first period.
Captain Philp maintained his consistent, reliable presence by registering his ninth goal of the campaign only 3:37 into the second period to restore the Ice lead.
After scoring on a short-handed opportunity late in the first, Robertson used the man advantage to draw the Oil Kings even at 3-3 midway through the second period.
A struggling Kootenay Ice power play found some life early in the third period as Matt Alfaro collected his first goal of the season on the man advantage 2:13 in.
Coach Pierce highlighted Alfaro’s power-play goal as a key point in the night, as well as a third-period scrap from winger River Beattie.
Beattie, the second-year forward from Sherwood Park, Alta., went toe-to-toe with Oil Kings winger Colton Kehler and scored the takedown after landing a heavy right hook, energizing the visitors bench.
Once again, after the Ice claimed a lead, the Oil Kings found an answer as defenceman Aaron Irving hammered a point shot on the power play, beating a screened Wyatt Hoflin to knot the game 4-4 midway through the third period.
“If that would have been any other night so far this year, we’re probably in big, big trouble because our emotion level and our confidence, all those things are shot,” Pierce said of Irving’s game-tying tally. “But I thought our guys did a good job after the goal against to keep fighting and scrap their way through.
“Hopefully that’s something we can build off of, not just on ice in our structure, but our approach to the game.”
The Ice chased Dillon after only 20 minutes in the crease. The 6-foot-5 prospect of the Los Angeles Kings saw his night end early after surrendering two goals on 14 shots in the opening period.
Patrick Dea came on in relief of Dillon, turning aside 10 of 13 shots.
At the other end, Hoflin made 30 saves on 34 shots for his second win of the season.
Next up, the Kootenay Ice host the Brandon Wheat Kings Friday night at Western Financial Place.
Notes: The Ice went without D Cale Fleury (upper body), D Tyler King (knee), RW Jaedon Descheneau (upper body) and RW Max Patterson (upper body) Monday night…