Kootenay Ice forward Zak Zborosky took notice when he was ranked 97th amongst North American skaters on the NHL Central Scouting Service’s midseason draft list Tuesday morning.
“I’m not necessarily watching [those lists] but I did look at it,” Zborosky said. “I looked at it once and thought it was pretty cool. You obviously want to keep moving up [the list]. They are watching you, so you’ve got to keep playing hard.
“Consistency on my part, a little bit more of a grittier game and being a guy who can be able to play in all situations — more of a complete player,” Zborosky said of what he is focusing on to gain the attention of scouts and hopefully earn a higher ranking by the time the Central Scouting Service releases its final rankings in April.
With the Vancouver Giants in town Tuesday night, Zborosky used the opportunity to show scouts why they might want to consider moving him up that list, scoring the game-winning goal in a 4-3 victory.
“It just turned into a three-on-two and Sam [Reinhart] was in the middle,” Zborosky said, recounting his winning marker. “He passed it to me and I had a lot of time. I saw the open spot, shot it and it went in.”
The 18-year-old native of Regina makes it sound easy and he made it look even easier, unleashing a laser of a wrist shot that found the top corner past the blocker of Giants starting goaltender Payton Lee. The goal came 7:29 into the third period, giving the Ice a 4-2 lead.
In 46 games this season, Zborosky has tacked up 28 points, spending the bulk of his time on the right flank alongside Reinhart.
Giants captain Dalton Sward banged home a rebound with 5.8 seconds remaining in regulation to make it a one-goal game, but that was all the Giants mustered as Zborosky’s goal stood as the winner.
River Beattie tallied his second goal in as many games to put the hosts ahead 3-1 in the second period, cashing in on a Giants turnover by sliding a backhand shot through Lee.
“It was good offensive pressure by our forwards and [the Giants] turned it over,” Beattie said after the win. “The d-man coughed it up to me and I was lucky enough to get the puck on net and it was able to squeak by the goaltender.
“[Scoring gives] confidence, for sure. It’s been a couple lucky bounces as well, but confidence is coming.”
Tyler King opened the scoring in the first period to give the Ice a 1-0 advantage before Giants forward Tyler Benson scored 15 seconds into the second period to tie things up.
Luke Philp restored the lead with a breakaway marker five minutes later before Beattie found the mesh.
Giants defenceman Mason Geertsen unleashed a howitzer from the point on the power play to make it a 3-2 game 3:08 into the third period.
Ice goaltender Wyatt Hoflin steered aside 39 of the 42 shots sent his way Tuesday night. Payton Lee, a product of the Cranbrook Minor Hockey Association, stopped 24 of 28 at the other end for the Giants.
Prior to puck drop against the Giants, Kootenay Ice general manager presented Reinhart and defenceman Rinat Valiev with commemorative prints in honour of their performances at the 2015 IIHF World Junior Championship.
Reinhart, representing Canada, tallied 11 points in helping his country reclaim junior gold. Valiev represented Russia, bringing home silver.
The 2015 IIHF World Junior Championship marks the first time in franchise history the Kootenay Ice have been represented by both gold-medal and silver-medal winning players at the same tournament.
The victory over the Giants comes at a critical time for the Ice, who lost 3-2 in Saskatoon Saturday night. The two points pulls the Ice (23-22-0-1, 47 points) within three points of the Edmonton Oil Kings (22-18-4-2, 50) for fourth place in the WHL’s Central Division.
The loss keeps the Giants (19-24-1-1, 40) two points back of the third-place Prince George Cougars (20-25-1-1, 42) in the WHL’s B.C. Division.
“Any time you play an out-of-conference team, those [games] are just as important,” Reinhart said. “To get two points on your side of things — every game is important, especially at this stage.”
Next up, the Ice travel to Edmonton to face the Oil Kings in an early-riser Thursday morning as the two teams face-off at 11:30 a.m. at Rexall Place.
Notes: Ice F Luke Philp was also listed on the NHL Central Scouting Service midseason rankings, slotted 191st amongst North American skaters… The Kootenay Ice scratched D Bryan Allbee (healthy), F Austin Wellsby (healthy), F Vince Loschiavo (healthy) and D Tanner Faith (shoulder, four to six months) Tuesday…