Kootenay slides into last place

Ice struggle over the weekend with three straight losses, extend streak to seven.

Taylor Vickerman of the Vancouver Giants

Kootenay slid into last place in the WHL this weekend, dropping three straight contests in a triple header action at home and on the road.

The Ice lost an overtime decision to the Saskatoon Blades by a score of 3-2 on Friday, followed by a 6-3 defeat at the hands of the Vancouver Giants on Saturday. A quick road trip to Medicine Hat resulted in a 3-1 loss to the Tigers on Sunday.

Kootenay’s performance and record (4-11-1-0) puts them at the bottom of the WHL, one point behind the Vancouver Giants, who climbed out of the bottom the cellar after their victory over the Ice.

Ice goaltender Wyatt Hoflin stood in net against the Blades, and appeared in two periods against the Giants before Mackenzie Skapski replaced him in the final frame. Skapski earned the start on Sunday against the Tigers and took the loss.

Saskatoon edged out the Ice in overtime, beating the hometown team despite getting outshot almost two-to-one on the shot clock.

While Andrey Makarov faced a lot of rubber in the crease, Kootenay Ice forward Erik Benoit said his team didn’t make things difficult enough for the Blades’ starter.

“We should’ve tried to get those second and third opportunities,” said Benoit. “We were, at points, crashing the net and at other points, we weren’t and we should’ve.

“He just made the first stop and that was it for him so kudos to him for playing a good game and we just got to make sure we get those second and third chances.”

Hoflin made 17 saves on the night for Kootenay, while Makarov turned away 34 pucks.

Both teams failed to capitalize on five separate power plays.

The Ice took the lead in the first period, when Jordyn Boyd fired the puck home after Zach McPhee wrapped around the back of the net and threw the biscuit out front.

However, the Blades managed to tie up the game five minutes later, when Josh Nicholls broke through the Ice defence for a shorthanded breakaway and put a backhand past Hoflin’s blocker side.

It got rough in near the end of the period, when Darren Deitz bowled over Ice defenceman Tanner Faith at the blue line, who’d knelt down to control a bouncing puck with his glove. Kootenay forward Brock Montgomery went after the Blades’ defenceman, earning a instigating minor, a five-minute major for fighting  and a ten-minute misconduct. Montgomery ended up spending 23 minutes in the sin bin over the course of the game.

Lukas Sutter nearly put the Blades in the lead in the second period, but he fired the puck through the crease at the side of the net, looking up to the rafters in disbelief as he skated back to the bench.

However, it was Nicholls who scored again, when he banged in a pass at the side of the net from teammate Matej Stransky.

Kootenay tied up the affair in the third period, when Benoit flew down the wing and wristed a shot on net that snuck through Makarov’s five-hole.

The Ice nearly capitalized again in a similar fashion later in the period, when McPhee put an innocent looking shot on net that snuck through Makarov, barley trickling wide of the net.

But the two teams were deadlocked after 60 minutes, which forced overtime.

It looked like it was nearly over 20 seconds into the extra frame when Sam Reinhart and Montgomery made some magic as they entered the zone and created a dangerous chance, but Makarov made the save.

However, it was the Blades who skated away with the win, when an uncovered Shane McColgan put the puck off the twine after he walked out into the slot from the corner and waited out Hoflin as he crossed the crease.

The Vancouver Giants visited Western Financial Place the following evening, earning a 6-3 win as Marek Tvrdon led the way, along with linemate Kale Kessy, as each collected four points.

Cranbrook native Payton Lee stood in net for the Giants, making 21 saves for his second win of the season, while Hoflin played two periods, with Mackenzie Skapski closing out the game in the final frame.

The Giants capitalized first near the halfway mark of the opening period, when Marek Tvrdon scored his first of two when he fired a rebound home in front of the crease.

However the Ice tied it up in the following period, when Jon Martin notched a shorthanded effort.

The 17-year-old forward went down behind the net while chasing a Vancouver defenceman, however, Levi Cable picked off the puck and fired it on net. Martin, who was all alone behind the net, skated out in front, intercepted the shot, drew the puck across the crease and stuffed it past Lee.

However, the wheels fell off after that, as the Giants scored four unanswered goals over the next 20 minutes.

Anthony Ast opened the floodgates first, beating Hoflin after receiving a cross-ice pass that put him alone on net.

Kessy got his goal two minutes later, when he wired a shot into the net after Tvrdon stripped the puck off an Ice defenceman and threw it out front.

Jackson Houck added to the Ice’s woes when he collected a puck at the top of the face-off circle in the Kootenay zone and fired it top shelf.

“The second period, we came out flying,” said Martin. “We got a shorthanded goal, forechecked hard, but I guess the bounces just weren’t going our way.”

Skapski replaced Hoflin in the third period, but Tvrdon got his second goal of the game a minute into the the action, when he put a backhand on net that beat the Ice netminder.

Down 5-1 with 19 minutes to go in the game, the Ice tried to mount a comeback, but the Giants and Lee kept the Ice from getting on the scoreboard until late in the game.

Kyle O’Connor got his second goal of his career, wristing a shot on net while streaking into zone on the left wing.

Reinhart cut the deficit to two goals, when he scooped up a loose puck in front of Lee and put it home in the final minute.

The Ice pulled Skapski, but newly minted Mason Gersteen, who was acquired by the Giants in a trade with the Edmonton Oil Kings last week, potted the empty netter with 30 seconds left.

“We came out in the first period thinking it was going to be easy but we weren’t all in the same boat,” said Martin. “We weren’t working hard, weren’t doing the simple things right, trying to be fancy and complicating.”

Kootenay hit the road and challenged the Tigers in Medicine Hat, dropping a 3-1 decision after three periods.

Former Iceman Elgin Pearce opened the scoring for the Tigers, and Hunter Shinkaruk notched the insurance marker in the final minute of the game.

Kyle Becker doubled the lead halfway  through the second period on the power play before Sam Reinhart answered for the Ice in the final minute.

However, Shinkaruk’s power play goal in the last 60 seconds of the game dimmed Kootenay’s chances of finding the equalizer with with a pulled goaltender and extra attacker.

Skapski allowed three goals in 37 shots for the Ice, while Cam Langin stopped 27 shots for the Tigers.

Kootenay failed to convert twice on the man-advantage, while Medicine Hat was good for two power play goals in four opportunities.

Kootenay has the week off before hosting the Moose Jaw Warriors next Saturday at Western Financial Place.

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