An alarm went off at Western Financial Place late in the third period of the Kootenay Ice’s Tuesday night game.
It was late — the Ice had caught fire back at the start of the second.
Facing off against the Lethbridge Hurricanes at home, Kootenay pulled off a 7-3 win, thanks in large part to a two-minute span in which they lit the lamp four times.
Holding onto their lead until the end of the night and earning an important win against a divisional rival, no one in the building even considered evacuating for the fire alarm and missing the celebration.
“I thought it was a character win for the boys,” said goaltender Duncan McGovern after the game. “We played 50 minutes of unbelievable hockey and there was maybe a 10-minute stretch where we wanted to be a bit better, but overall, I thought it was a great win for the team.”
Head coach James Patrick agreed, saying that it was good to see his group execute their system and be rewarded with goals.
“We talked [before the game] about middle lane drive, [which] hasn’t been as prevalent in our last three or four games,” Patrick said. ” I thought we had opportunities [thanks to using that effectively] that maybe put their defence under stress.
“[Overall, it was] a big win against a team that’s had our number and is a division rival. It’s two really big points for us.”
Although it was a mostly positive first period for the Ice, in which they looked dangerous on an early power play, they ended up being the ones to concede the first goal.
Near the midway point of the frame, Jordy Bellerive broke free of the Kootenay defence and converted on a cross-ice pass at the side of the net, beating McGovern.
Outshooting the ‘Canes 15-11 in the first, the Ice finally evened up the score with two minutes left, as Brad Ginnell batted in a loose puck in front of Logan Flodell. While the play was immediately waved off for high-sticking, after video review it was ruled a good goal — the first of Ginnell’s career in front of the hometown Cranbrook crowd.
“[It came] a little later than I wanted, but it feels good to get it and get the monkey off the back a little bit,” said Ginnell, who has played 12 games for Kootenay since being traded by the Portland Winterhawks. “[I’m just going to] keep playing as hard as I can.”
The middle frame opened with a bang, as Brad Morrison was tagged with interference, giving the Ice their second power play of the game. They got to work quickly and didn’t let up.
Just six seconds into the man advantage, Peyton Krebs grabbed a pass from Martin Bodak and walked in and fired a laser beam past Flodell for his 10th of the season.
Shortly after, back at even strength, Colton Kroeker started a tic-tac-toe play on an odd-man opportunity that went in front to Colton Veloso and back to the side of the net where it was buried by Kaeden Taphorn.
Not to be outdone, on the very next shift, twin brother Keenan Taphorn scored on a two-on-one rush, grinding in a perfect pass delivered by Ginnell.
The three goals in a minute and a half weren’t the end of the onslaught, however. Making a pass in the corner, Cam Hausinger assisted Brett Davis’ tally that sent the crowd of 2,054 into an absolute uproar.
Just three and a half minutes into the middle period, the Ice suddenly had a 5-1 lead and were sitting pretty.
“Things happened really quickly in that second period [and] it was great,” Patrick said. “I thought we drove the net, got pucks off the back door. It was really good that Keenan got rewarded and Kaeden got rewarded [and] I thought Duncan McGovern was outstanding, as well.”
Unfortunately, their momentum didn’t last.
According to Patrick, for ten minutes his team fell apart in an otherwise spectacular effort. First allowing a goal off a giveaway to Keltie Jeri-Leon and then letting Morrison walk in and rip another goal past McGovern, Kootenay almost put themselves in jeopardy while closing out the frame.
“We showed our immaturity, if you ask me,” the coach said. “To do some of the things we did with a 5-1 lead, at this time in the season is pretty disappointing. [We had] defencemen joining the rush and forcing plays [when they] should never have to join the rush.
“[Defence should] just keep it moving, keep it moving, dump it in, get it in and [not be] giving up 4-on-2s and 3-on-1s…Hopefully, this will be a really good lesson for us moving forward.”
In the third, the Ice got back to their game and were rewarded early. They scored another power play goal, again just six seconds after the initial faceoff, with Kroeker finding Veloso in front who redirected a marker past Reece Klassen.
From there, the team played an effective defensive game, stymying the ‘Canes at every turn and eventually put a punctuation mark on the big home win with an empty-netter from Davis.
“[The end of the second period] was a real wake-up call,” Patrick said. “We got back to getting pucks deep and always having three guys back or five guys back. I thought we did a good job in the neutral zone and kept them outside [to finish the game].”
The decisive win marked Kootenay’s first victory over Lethbridge this season, after starting the year with a pair of shutout losses and then recently falling 5-2 in the Windy City.
The Ice have now beaten every team in their division at least one time this year. They also made up ground in their divisional race and with a 21-23-3-0 record (45 points), are only three points behind the Hurricanes (48) for second in the Central Division.
While the Medicine Hat Tigers remain in the number one spot with 53, the Ice are well above missing the playoffs as they have 9 more points then the Calgary Hitmen, the next closest divisional rival.
“It’s a confidence boost, that we can beat every team in our division,” Patrick said. “[But] every game is a new game. Every team has little different instances to their system or little points. You have to be aware of what they want to do, but it still comes down to engaging, competing, working hard and executing.”
For McGovern, who had lost four times to the Hurricanes this season heading into the match, it was a great relief to get a ‘W’.
“I think we knew how good we were [before], but the biggest thing is just getting the monkey off our back, as a goalie especially,” said McGovern, who had 24 saves. “There are certain teams, for whatever reason, it doesn’t go your way [so] for me at least and I think for the boys too, now they’re just [like] any other team.”
Continuing onto games four and five of their seven-game homestand, the Ice host the Brandon Wheat Kings on Friday and Saturday. Having split their season series at one game apiece so far, the weekend will be another important test. Puck drop for Friday’s game is at 7:00 p.m.
ICE CHIPS: Forward Gilian Kohler returned to the Ice lineup on Tuesday for the first time since suffering an upper body injury during the team’s New Year’s game against the Medicine Hat Tigers. Defenceman Dallas Hines, however, remained out with an upper body injury still classified as day-to-day. Associate player Nolan Orzeck was recalled to take his place in the lineup. Forward Sebastian Streu left Tuesday’s game early in the first period after sustaining an injury.
1st Period-1, Lethbridge, Bellerive 30 (Morrison, Jeri-Leon), 11:14. 2, Kootenay, Ginnell 7 (Huston, Krebs), 18:05. Penalties-Wilson Let (hooking), 1:34; Olson Let (hooking), 18:24.
2nd Period-3, Kootenay, Krebs 10 (Kroeker, Bodak), 0:56 (PP). 4, Kootenay, Taphorn 4 (Veloso, Kroeker), 1:37. 5, Kootenay, Taphorn 6 (Ginnell, Patrick), 2:28. 6, Kootenay, Davis 15 (Hausinger, Baer), 3:35. 7, Lethbridge, Jeri-Leon 4 (Bellerive, Prefontaine), 12:44. 8, Lethbridge, Morrison 17 (Jeri-Leon), 17:35. Penalties-Morrison Let (inter. on goaltender), 0:50.
3rd Period-9, Kootenay, Veloso 16 (Kroeker, Bodak), 0:26 (PP). 10, Kootenay, Davis 16 17:38 (SH). Penalties-Merezhko Let (interference), 0:20; Pouliot Ktn (holding opp. stick), 1:17; Hausinger Ktn (tripping), 15:59.
Shots on Goal-Lethbridge 11-5-11-27. Kootenay 15-11-6-32.
Power Play Opportunities-Lethbridge 0 / 2; Kootenay 2 / 4.
Goalies-Lethbridge, Flodell 29-10-3-0 (21 shots-16 saves); Klassen 3-4-2-0 (11 shots-9 saves). Kootenay, McGovern 10-5-1-0 (27 shots-24 saves).