Following Wednesday night’s game in Prince Albert, Kootenay Ice head coach James Patrick was at a loss for words.
The team had just been handed their fifth straight loss, but this one came out of the blue.
Getting themselves back in a tight game with the Raiders thanks to a terrific third period, the Ice were stunned by a break for Prince Albert with less than a minute and a half left.
Tied 3-3, Cole Fonstad broke down the wing and was swarmed by three Kootenay players. The entire building saw an open pass drop pass to linemate Kelly Parker. Somehow, everyone missed Jordy Stallard.
The team’s leading scorer had fooled the entire Ice team and broken away for a clear-cut chance in front of the net. Fonstad hesitated, noticed him and then connected for the game-winning goal.
“It’s hard to be happy about much when you get a dagger like that at the end of the game,” Patrick said in a video posted on the Ice’s social media channels. “I thought that we played so hard and we stormed back… we had guys compete as hard as I’ve seen all year.”
Following the goal, Patrick pulled Duncan McGovern for an extra-attacker and his team generated substantial pressure, but they couldn’t force overtime.
According to forward Sebastian Streu, who had a goal in the loss, it was a very tough way to go home that night.
“You feel it, for sure,” Streu said. “We played pretty well, except for the first 10 minutes [of the game], but we bounced back pretty well. It would’ve been nice to get a few bounces there at the end, but it is what it is.”
In the game’s opening half of the first period, the Raiders put on a show for their home crowd and opened the scoring near the six-minute mark.
Bookending his night, it was Stallard who beat McGovern first, as he connected on a one-timer from Regan Nagy at the top of the circle.
While the Ice evened the play in the latter half of the frame, they couldn’t find a way to beat Ian Scott and the Raiders eventually cashed in on a second goal near the end of the period.
On a power play, Spencer Moe delivered a perfect cross-ice pass to Curtis Miske, who was posted up at the back door and made no mistake, giving his team a two-goal lead.
It took less than 30 seconds for an Ice response, however, as Cam Hausinger laid a solid defensive-zone body check on Kody McDonald and moments late poked a puck to create his own breakaway and scored on a low-wrister.
Setting up a competitive second period, McGovern stayed sharp and the Ice pressured hard, eventually putting in a tying goal.
A two-on-one chance with Cole Muir, Streu had his initial shot blocked but immediately collected the rebound and took into the twine.
“I tried to give it back to [Muir] but the defenceman blocked it,” Streu said of the goal. “I got pretty lucky that it went right back to me and I just put it top-shelf.”
In the dying minutes of the second, a strange play resulted in a go-ahead goal for Prince Albert. Miske put a shot over the net that somehow found itself right in the corner of the crease. Passing by at an opportune time, Moe got a stick on it and gave his team a 3-2 lead.
The third period was dominated by Kootenay and Alec Baer took matters into his own hands near the midway mark. Walking out from behind the net, he patiently waited and then beat Scott for his 22nd of the year.
Brett Davis and Gilian Kohler were credited with assists on the mostly solo-effort by Baer, with Kohler getting his first point in ten games.
Looking to finally get a game at least past regulation, the Ice were then heartbroken by Stallard’s late goal.
According to Patrick, there were many standout performances and it was just unfortunate that the team wasn’t able to pick up a point or two for their effort.
“[We were] led by Cam Hausinger who I thought was outstanding and Alec Baer played [a very] physical game,” the coach said. “Kroeker was really good and [so were] Zac Patrick and Martin Bodak.
“So, this one hurts as much as any game we’ve lost this year because of how much work we put into the game.”
With the loss, the Ice now have a record of 23-28-3-0 and are slipping from their comfortable third-in-the-Central-Division playoff spot. The Red Deer Rebels beat the Calgary Hitmen in a shootout on Wednesday night and are now only four points back of the Ice.
Kootenay has two games left on their current Saskatchewan road-trip, against the top Wild Card spot Regina Pats and the WHL-leading Moose Jaw Warriors. The Ice are winless so far this season while playing in the land of living skies.
The team’s next game against the Pats is at 6 p.m. on Friday night.