Facing the lowest-ranked team in the WHL, the Kootenay Ice missed out on an opportunity to gain ground in the Eastern Conference playoff picture, falling 6-4 to the Saskatoon Blades Saturday night.
“That team showed up ready to work,” Ice forward Luke Philp said of the Blades. “They played fast. They played hard. The bottom line is they deserved that one. We didn’t.”
The Blades, last in the league with 21 points heading into Saturday night, utilized a three-goal second period to build a 4-3 advantage over the hosts, before adding two more goals in the third period to make it 6-3.
Philp made the game interesting, scoring his 18th of the season with 3:33 to play in the regulation, but 6-4 was where it all finished when the final buzzer sounded.
Philp concluded the night with a goal and two assists.
Starting the first game of his WHL career, Blades goaltender Brock Hamm turned aside 28 shots to earn his first-career WHL victory. The native of Saskatoon was called up to the Blades Jan. 5 after starting the season with the Humboldt Broncos of the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League, going 9-10-0 with a 2.72 goals-against average and 0.918 save percentage.
Ice forward Levi Cable continued to collect the goals, registering his 18th and 19th of the season. The native of Hudson Bay, Sask., now sits second on the team in goal-scoring this season, trailing Jaedon Descheneau who leads the way with 21 goals.
“We’ve got to come ready to play, no matter who [our opponent] is,” Cable said Saturday night. “We’ve got to come out strong and we’ve got to play the whole game strong. It doesn’t matter who the opponent is.”
With 19 goals and 31 points through 39 games this season, Cable has already established a new career high in goals and is inching closer to the career mark he set with 34 points in 67 games during the 2012-13 campaign.
“I’ve had good linemates all year,” Cable said. “They’ve been helping me out. A lot of my goals have been pretty lucky — good bounces for me. Things have been going my way. It’s been good this year.”
Cable’s first of the night was one of those lucky markers as he banged away at the side of the Blades cage, somehow finding a hole between Hamm and the post to squeak the puck through and open the scoring in the first period.
With his first goal as a Saskatoon Blade, defenceman Brycen Martin tied things up 28 seconds into the second period before Cable restored the Ice lead by wiring a hot shot through Hamm.
After that, it was all Saskatoon in the second period as Brett Stovin and Wyatt Sloboshan scored back-to-back goals, giving the Blades their first lead.
Tim Bozon tied the game with his 14th of the season, but before the second period came to a close, Sloboshan responded with his second of the night and the Blades refused to relinquish the lead from there.
Cameron Hebig scored what stood as the game-winning goal less than four minutes into the final period and Sam McKechnie added the extra insurance tally.
Kootenay Ice goaltender Wyatt Hoflin had the night off as Keelan Williams started between the pipes for the first time since since Oct. 22. Williams hadn’t played since Dec. 7 when he came on in relief of Hoflin as the Ice fell 5-4 to the Tri-City Americans in Kennewick, Wash.
For Hoflin, the night off brought an end to his consecutive-appearances streak, which ran a franchise-record 29 games from Oct. 24, 2014 to Jan. 9, 2015.
Williams faced 41 shots from the Blades, stopping 35.
The Ice have now lost three consecutive games. Next up, they travel to Moose Jaw to face the Warriors Wednesday night.
Notes: The Kootenay Ice skated without the services of D Dylan Overdyk (healthy), F Austin Wellsby (healthy), D Rinat Valiev (ill) and D Tanner Faith (shoulder)…Ice captain Sam Reinhart suited up Saturday, showing no ill effects from blocking a shot with the inside of his foot Friday against the Red Deer Rebels. Reinhart had one assist, breaking a two-game pointless stretch…The Saskatoon Blades scratched F Garrett Armour and F Brayden Uhrich…Both teams went 0-for-2 on the power play Saturday night…