Kootenay Ice captain Keenan Crossman looks for a rebound against the Prince George Cougars goalie. Crossman scored twice in Saturday’s 3-2 overtime loss to earn a point for Kootenay.

Kootenay Ice earn point against league-leading Prince George Cougars

The Kootenay Ice gave the Prince George Cougars all they could handle in two close weekend games

In BC Major Midget League (BCMML) action, the Kootenay Ice earned a tough point from the league-leading Prince George Cougars on the weekend, but probably deserved more.

Kootenay lost 3-2 in overtime to the defending BCMML champions on Saturday, and led 4-3 past the midpoint of the third period on Sunday, before the Cougars stormed back, scoring three times in the final seven minutes for a 6-4 victory. While disappointing, the Ice went toe-to-toe with a team that dominated the league last year, proving once again they can skate with the league’s top teams.

“We played really well,” said Ice coach Kris Boyce. “The effort in both games was incredible by our group. But you have to give it to them, even though you’re in a tight game, they just kept coming at us, and we kept giving it back, so it could have went either way.”

Cougars defenceman Max Arnold scored the winner with two minutes and 43 seconds to play, taking a pass in the high slot from Craig McDonald and firing a low shot past Kootenay netminder Jake Kemp for a 5-4 lead.

“A team like that, their defence really like to jump up into the play so you want to watch their defencemen or they will burn you eventually,” said Boyce. “They burned us with three minutes left. “

The team’s traded chances throughout the game, in a fast and physical match up. The Cougars opened the scoring at 17:19 of the first period when McDonald lifted a rebound over the Ice goalie for a shorthanded marker. But 55 seconds later, the Ice tied it on the power play when Kootenay’s Adam Pipe let go a bullet from the slot, with assists to Caleb Goncalves and Mason McLeod.

The Cougars went up 2-1 with 7:38 to play in the period when McDonald snuck a sharp-angled power-play goal by Kemp for his second of the game and fifth of the season.

Kootenay’s Quaid Anderson tied it less than two minutes into the second. The Cranbrook native jumped on a loose puck and broke in on a partial breakaway. PG goalie, Marcus Allen, stopped the initial shot, but Anderson slipped in the rebound while falling to the ice for his second goal of the season.

The Cougars kept coming and midway through the middle frame Riley Krane converted a back-door pass from Mason Richey to give P.G. a 3-2 lead.

Ice goalie, Kemp, kept the game close making a brilliant pad save on a 2-on-0, and then came across on a 2-on-1 to rob the Cougars forward with the glove just moments later.

“Our goalies have played incredible, some of the saves from both of them this weekend, you can’t ask from a better performance from those two, (Kemp and Xavier Cannon).”

The saves sparked the Ice, and Edmonton native Pipe netted his second of the game banging in a loose puck on a scramble in front to tie it at 3-3 heading into the final frame.

Cranbrook product Erik Delaire gave Kootenay its first lead of the game, taking a pass from Mason and wiring it by the Cougars goalie to make it 4-3 with 9:12 to play in the third. The assist was Mason’s third of the game.

But Krane notched his second of the match, tipping in an Arnold point shot just two seconds after a Kootenay penalty had expired, to tie it at 7:10.

Following Arnold’s winner, Prince George iced it with an empty netter with six seconds remaining for the 6-4 victory.

The Ice were also missing a key offensive component in Booker Daniel, who was picked up as an affiliate player by the BCHL Nanaimo Clippers for the weekend.

“He adds that dynamic to a team where he can put the puck in the net in those crucial situations, a power-play guy. And looking at our effort and the goals we scored this weekend, you have that guy in the line up and the game could have gone the other way.”

In Saturday’s match, a valiant effort by netminder Xavier Cannon, carried the Ice into overtime with the Cougars, only to see the game slip away 20 seconds in on a goal by Brennan Malgunas for the 3-2 Cougars victory.

Trail’s Keenan Crossman scored twice for the Ice and a team-leading seven goals, but penalty trouble hurt Kootenay in the opening match with Malgunas and Krane scoring power-play markers in regulation for the Cougars.

“That team, you put them on the power play and they’re going to score eventually, so you have to stay out of the penalty box against them.”

The wins put Prince George at 11-2-1-0, one point up on the 11-1-0-0 Valley West Hawks whose only loss came at the hands of the Ice in a 5-4 match on Oct. 22.

“We’re in the mix right now, even getting one point, the league is so tight if we steal another point from them that’s huge,” said Boyce. “But we only get the one, it’s still okay, but it’s nice to get a couple every game.”

The 4-6-0-2 Kootenay Ice set sail for Vancouver Island this weekend with two games in Victoria against the 1-13-0-0 South Island Royals.

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