It was Peyton Krebs’ 17th birthday on Friday, but he wasn’t the only one in Cranbrook who was celebrating that night.
While the Kootenay Ice rookie marked the milestone with the game-winning goal, teammates Martin Bodak and Alec Baer had special days as well, scoring two each in a 6-2 defeat of the Brandon Wheat Kings that had all 2,230 fans at Western Financial Place ready to party.
According to Baer, who also had an assist and was named the game’s second star, the win was a total team effort.
“We played the way we know we can play,” he said. “I think that’s when our hockey is good, when we’ve got all four lines going and all of our [defence] make simple plays. [Brandon is] a really good team [but] we took it to them the first couple of periods.”
Bodak, who was named the night’s first star, gave a lot of credit to their perfect power play results. Despite being the least efficient man advantage in the league heading into the game, the Ice were a perfect 3-for-3 in their defeat of the Wheat Kings.
“I think it was the faceoffs [that led to our success],” Bodak said. “There were really good faceoffs and we went right away to the net and they ended up as goals [which] was great.”
Taking his game to another level since returning from the World Juniors, Bodak opened the game’s scoring while at regular strength just past the midway point of the first period.
After a cautious opening, Bodak jumped into an odd-man rush with Baer and Brett Davis, finishing a passing play by ripping the puck through Dylan Myskiw’s legs.
Shortly after that, Kootenay got their first power play of the night after Brandon’s leading scorer Ty Lewis was sent off for boarding, and they wasted no time. Winning a faceoff 22 seconds into the advantage, Davis found Baer at the top of the left circle who wired in his 19th goal of the year.
Keeping up their momentum in the second period, Krebs finished off a two-on-one with Colton Kroeker going post-and-in past Myskiw.
Sebastian Streu then added another power play goal less than three minutes later, making no mistake with a pass delivered to him in the slot by Davis.
On their third and final power play near the 11-minute mark, Baer put in his second of the night which was once again assisted by Davis, who had a three-assist performance.
“Brett made some great plays on the power play,” said head coach James Patrick following the game. “Whether you get breaks on it or whatever, I thought we made our breaks today. You get three power play goals, that’s the game right there.”
While the Ice got away from their game slightly in the latter half of the second, allowing Luka Burzan to snap a big rebound past Matt Berlin, the team went into the final intermission with a comfortable 5-1 lead.
In the third, Bodak popped in his second goal off a sweet backhander after picking up a dish from Kroeker.
While Evan Weinger put in a weird one from the corner that fooled Berlin on a power play, which ruined Kootenay’s perfect special teams night, the Ice managed another win at home, their second in a row.
“I think [our success] was just a combination of them being on a long road trip and us being pretty fresh at home here,” Patrick said. “Definitely, we got the jump on them [and] I liked our pace. We had a really good middle lane drive [and] pressured their defence when we could.
“We’re still a bit immature [though]. In the third period, [we] gave up a 4-on-2, and a 3-on-2 [on one shift] which shouldn’t happen when you have a 5-1 lead.”
According to Patrick, after having an unfortunate introduction to Cranbrook last Friday, goalie Matt Berlin provided a stable presence while earning his first win in Kootenay colours.
“I thought he played really well,” the coach said. “He eliminated some chances early in the game. [When it was] 0-0 and they got a breakaway. We had numbers back and the defenceman blew his assignment and lost his man. That [could have been] the game.
“He came up with big saves [so] I really liked his game.”
Patrick also raved about Bodak and affiliate player Nolan Orzeck.
“Marty continues to play big minutes and really solid two-way hockey for us… he was getting those chances the first half, but now the puck is finding the back of the net,” he said. “Next to him, [Orzeck] was our best defenceman. He’s got vision [and] really good mobility. The amount of times he picked off their plays just by his reads [and] his one-on-one play [was outstanding].
“We expect him to go back to his midget team because he’s got a game tomorrow [but] it was a great experience for him to be here for the past four days.”
Despite the big win, their second game in a row with over five goals, the Ice know that the Wheat Kings will come back hard at them on Saturday.
“I expect it to be a way tougher game,” Patrick said. “I know the last time we played them in Brandon, we got a really good lead [and then in] the second game, they came out as a totally different team.
“We’re going to have to be ready for it… we’re not celebrating, by any means. [We just need to] get some food, get some rest and get ready to be refocused and recharged.”
The coach isn’t taking any victory laps when in comes to the power play either.
“I thought we got some jump off the face-offs [and] we got some good retrievals, which was definitely part of it. [but] we’ll talk more about it tomorrow after the game,” the coach said with a chuckle. “We’ll see if we can make the same things [happen].”
Puck drop for Saturday’s special ‘Pink the Rink’ anti-bullying awareness game will be at 7 p.m. at Western Financial Place.
1st Period-1, Kootenay, Bodak 4 (Baer), 10:14. 2, Kootenay, Baer 19 (Davis), 13:00 (PP). Penalties-King Ktn (tripping), 6:00; Lewis Bdn (boarding), 12:38; Smart Ktn (hooking), 17:17.
2nd Period-3, Kootenay, Krebs 11 (Kroeker), 1:22. 4, Kootenay, Streu 7 (Davis, Smart), 4:28 (PP). 5, Kootenay, Baer 20 (Davis, Hausinger), 10:53 (PP). 6, Brandon, Burzan 7 (Gutenberg, Higson), 14:06. Penalties-Higson Bdn (elbowing), 3:40; Davis Ktn (boarding), 6:25; Bettens Bdn (charging), 10:10.
3rd Period-7, Kootenay, Bodak 5 (Kroeker, Veloso), 8:26. 8, Brandon, Weinger 23 (Bukac), 10:12 (PP). Penalties-Pouliot Ktn (holding), 9:41; Huston Ktn (delay of game), 14:59.
Shots on Goal-Brandon 6-6-11-23. Kootenay 14-11-8-33.
Power Play Opportunities-Brandon 1 / 5; Kootenay 3 / 3.
Goalies-Brandon, Myskiw 5-3-2-0 (33 shots-27 saves). Kootenay, Berlin 13-8-2-1 (23 shots-21 saves).