Kootenay Ice force shootout, fall 3-2 to Hitmen

Pair of young goalies duel in close matchup between division rivals that goes the distance

Jesse Makaj was sharp in his first ever WHL start, but the Kootenay Ice fell 3-2 to the Hitmen in Calgary on Wednesday night.

The 17-year-old goaltending prospect made 29 saves in his debut, but was outdueled by rookie Hitmen netminder Matthew Armitage in a shootout that saw all three Calgary players score.

A meaningless night for the standings, as both teams have already been eliminated from playoff contention, the classic rivals mustered together enough pride to provide an entertaining 65 plus minutes of hockey at the Saddledome.

The Ice had the only goal of the first period, as Brett Davis tallied his 25th of the season after collecting a rebound off Martin Bodak’s point shot while alone in front of Armitage.

In the second, the Hitmen potted two quick goals in the opening three minutes to take a lead. Both the result of defensive zone breakdowns for Kootenay, Mark Kastelic had the first and was followed up by a marker from Riley Stotts.

In the third, the goaltending continued to be razor sharp, but Alec Baer tied the game for Kootenay on a power play less than three minutes into the frame. Grabbing a rebound at the side of the slot, Baer found the back of the net and celebrated with a little dance.

Taking the game all the way to overtime, the teams traded chances and Makaj saved his team with an important breakaway stop on Jake Kryski near the end of extra time.

In the shootout, the Hitmen were perfect. Kryski kicked the proceedings off with a five-hole redemption goal, while Brad Ginnell was stopped by an acrobatic Armitage. Stotts then potted a backhander that was countered by a speedy move from Davis, but Jakob Stukel ended the night in the third round with a backhand-to-forehand deke that slid past Makaj.

The loss marked Kootenay’s 11th straight defeat, but fourth straight to go past regulation time. Bodak led the team in points with two assists.

The Ice now only have two games remaining this season, as they wrap up 2017-18 with a home-and-home against the Red Deer Rebels this weekend. The final game of the year will be played in Cranbrook on Saturday in ‘Fan Appreciation Night’.

Cranbrook Townsman

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