They finally slayed the tiger.
Coming into the game with 10 straight losses in their head-to-head series with the Medicine Hat Tigers, the Kootenay Ice managed to tame their Central Division rival — and they did it in dramatic fashion.
Clawing their way back from a 3-1 deficit after the first period, the Ice surprised their opponents by tying up the game in the third, and then shocked them by scoring with less than 5 seconds to go.
Brett Davis was the hero, walking in and firing an innocent-looking wrister from just over the blueline that found its way to the back of the net.
The marker was a dagger in the Tigers’ hearts and gave his team their first ever win at the Canalta Centre, Medicine Hat’s home arena since 2015.
“I thought the character that we showed [was great],” said head coach James Patrick following the game. “In the second and third period, we started playing the way we can [and] to our game plan.”
While they were the weaker team in the first 20 minutes, the Ice opened the scoring just over six minutes into the night, converting on the night’s opening power play.
With a nose for the net, after being hauled down and then given a penalty shot in the last 10 seconds of the team’s previous game on Sunday, Martin Bodak bucked convention and went end-to-end on the man advantage.
The Slovak defenceman juked the puck through Tigers’ captain Mark Rassell’s legs, essentially splitting three defenders, and then ripped a shot past Jordan Hollett.
Unfortunately, the highlight reel goal provided a very short term lead, as Rassell tied the game a minute later, burying a perfect pass from David Quenneville from the side of the net.
Throwing up a rude hand gesture on his way past the Ice bench, Rassell’s goal sparked the Tigers to score two more before the end of the opening frame.
James Hamblin got the next one, as he finished off a signature Medicine Hat rush play, with a backhanded beauty over Duncan McGovern.
Ryan Chyzowski then took advantage of another counterattack and put a puck over the Ice goalie’s far shoulder.
Although Colton Veloso, who was playing in his 200th career regular season WHL game, almost helped his team cut into the lead before going into the break, he had a penalty shot attempt go unsuccessfully.
After surrendering 13 shots and plenty of room for the freewheeling Tigers to skate in the first period, Kootenay tightened up after the intermission.
Slowing the night down considerably, the Ice began to gain some comfort and got another goal from their Slovak stud blueliner near the end of the middle frame.
Pouncing on a loose puck in front, created by Veloso’s wrist shot, Krebs and Bodak managed to jam in a goal that made it a one-goal hockey game.
In the third, the Ice kept to their plan and continued to make life difficult for the Central Division’s top team. Despite giving up a brief 5-on-3, the period swung the pendulum in Kootenay’s favour and they capitalized at the midway point off a weird one.
Grabbing a dangerous two-on-one, thanks to a fortuitous bounce off the glass from Veloso in his own zone, Krebs threw a puck to the net that went off a diving Michael King’s body and in.
While the play was reviewed, the tally stood, and soon had both benches heads drifting towards 3-on-3 overtime. Of course, Davis had other ideas and forced Hollett to bobble his late desperation shot and gave his group a remarkable win.
“Brett continued his strong play,” Patrick said. “A lot of guys came up big [including] Martin Bodak, who was a beast for us. The minutes he played, the physical game, he played the battles [and] he stopped their best players.”
With 34 saves on 37 shots and an assist (on Bodak’s opening goal), McGovern had his first ever win against the team that drafted him and traded him to Kootenay in October.
Despite being a turning point in the recent chapter of the Ice-Tigers rivalry, the victory was the second regulation win in a row for Kootenay. With the two points, the Ice are now at 20-22-3-0 and 9 points behind the Tigers in the standings.
Medicine Hat maintained first place in the division in the loss, and Kootenay also stood pat in third. The next Ice game will be at home on Friday night, as they host the last-place Edmonton Oil Kings, to kick off a seven-game homestand.