Four different goal scorers, one big win.
The Kootenay Ice needed a complete team effort against the Seattle Thunderbirds on Friday night, and they got it, winning 4-2 in front of their home crowd.
The defending WHL league champions gave the Ice a lot to handle to open the game, but the resilient Kootenay group fought to earn their sixth victory of the season.
“They’ve convinced me in a lot of ways [of their mental toughness],” said head coach James Patrick after the game. “If [they] can play [the way they did] against a big, physical team, I know they can [compete with anyone].”
Heading into the game, the Ice were looking to bounce back after a slow start led to a 6-3 loss to the Regina Pats on Tuesday night.
Unfortunately, the first period against Seattle was once again not to Patrick’s liking, and the team went into the first intermission down 1-0.
While Zack Andrusiak was the T-birds lone opening frame goal-scorer, beating Kurtis Chapman on a partial breakaway, the Ice were lucky to escape with such a tight scoreline.
“I didn’t like the first period. Playing against a bigger, more physical team is hard to get inside and [we got] bullied a bit,” Patrick said. “There were way too many scoring chances against and [Chapman] came up with some big saves for us.”
In the second, a reinvigorated team emerged and quickly found the back of the net. Less than a minute in, Vince Loschiavo grabbed a pass in the high slot and put in his fifth of the year with a hard wrist shot.
Just two minutes later, Colton Kroeker put the team in front after scoring on a delayed penalty call from the blue line.
“We wanted to come out differently than we did in the first [period] and I thought we had a good first shift.” Loschiavo said. “Then we just kept going throughout the period — it was good.”
Standing tall against a big, physical Seattle team, the Ice held the 2-1 scoreline until the last minute of the period when Peyton Krebs took a pass from Martin Bodak in the neutral zone, skated down the wing and beat Matt Berlin.
“Without that play [by Bodak] in the middle, I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to take the puck and score,” Krebs said. “I [then] let my body do the rest of the work and it was a great job by [my linemates] taking the defencemen and I just shot it in.”
The cushion-goal ended up being crucial because after a scoreless third period, Seattle earned a late power play and popped in a goal after a strange situation.
Losing a skate blade while acting as one of four penalty killers, Martin Bodak was reduced to flopping on the ice as Austin Strand finished off a passing play to pull Seattle within one.
“It turned into a 5-on-3 [after Bodak] blocked the very first shot,” Patrick said. “He could barely stand up and they had the puck in there for the next 90 seconds with really tired bodies.”
While Seattle mounted some pressure in the dying minutes of the night, after pulling their goalie in the last minute, Cam Hausinger scored his first goal of the year on the empty net.
Overall, Patrick was pleased with the team’s effort through the final 40 minutes and thought there were plenty of strides made throughout the game.
“The last two periods were our best stretch of time against a physical team. We got inside, we competed, we battled on pucks [and] we blocked shots,” the coach said. “We’re not the biggest team and, at times, [opponents] want to come in and be really physical.
“This was the best I’ve seen this year [from us], as far as us just ‘manning up’ and competing.”
From top to bottom, Patrick said that the level of determination in the latter half of the game was outstanding.
“Gilian Kohler’s battle was outstanding for a little guy,” he said. He moved his feet, got into battles, played against their big defencemen and just kept hounding them. For me, [it was] Kohler and Cam Hausinger [who] were the leading guys that fired up the team.”
The Ice also had an improved game on special teams. Despite being unable to score on their two power play chances, the team went 3-for-4 on the penalty kill.
“I thought [the penalty kill] was way better in a lot of ways,” Patrick said. “There were more [guys in] shot lanes, we blocked more shots and we got our feet moving harder….[it’s] still an ever growing learning process, but I liked it a lot better [than last game].”
With the win, the Ice are now 6-7-0-1 after 14 games. They get back to action on Sunday afternoon for a home game against the Red Deer Rebels.
After following up their last two emotional victories with frustrating losses, Patrick is looking to ensure that trend doesn’t continue.
“We’re going to have to do something different and it’s going to be up to us to challenge the players,” Patrick said. “[Red Deer] is a team that plays hard… they keep pucks on the walls, [they are] physical in their own end [and] their defence can be physical.
“We’re just going to have to do something to make sure we’re ready.”
The team has an open practice at the Kimberley Civic Centre on Saturday at 11 a.m. and puck drop on Sunday is at 4 p.m. at Western Financial Place.
ICE CHIPS: Defenceman Nolan Orzeck played his first WHL game for the Ice on Friday, after being recalled from the Calgary Northstars of the Alberta Midget AAA hockey league.
1st Period-1, Seattle, Andrusiak 3 (Harsch, Philp), 14:08. Penalties-Ormsby Sea (tripping), 9:17; Pouliot Ktn (cross checking), 15:53; Briscoe Sea (10-minute misconduct), 20:00.
2nd Period-2, Kootenay, Loschiavo 5 (Davis), 0:56. 3, Kootenay, Kroeker 6 (Pouliot, Baer), 2:43. 4, Kootenay, Krebs 3 (Bodak), 18:57. Penalties-Sheen Ktn (unsportsmanlike cnd.), 9:35; Baer Ktn (misconduct – mouthguard), 20:00.
3rd Period-5, Seattle, Strand 6 (Harsch, Neuls), 14:24 (PP). 6, Kootenay, Hausinger 1 19:08 (EN). Penalties-Pouliot Ktn (boarding), 0:07; Philp Sea (holding), 8:03; Kroeker Ktn (high sticking), 13:30.
Shots on Goal-Seattle 14-14-11-39. Kootenay 8-15-8-31.
Power Play Opportunities-Seattle 1 / 4; Kootenay 0 / 2.
Goalies-Seattle, Berlin 4-3-0-1 (30 shots-27 saves). Kootenay, Chapman 3-3-0-0 (39 shots-37 saves).