Captain Sam Reinhart tallied two goals and the Kootenay Ice earned two points, stringing together back-to-back wins for the first time this season, following a 4-3 win over the Edmonton Oil Kings Friday night.
Making his season debut after being returned to the Ice from the NHL’s Buffalo Sabres, it didn’t take long for Reinhart to make his impact felt.
Chugging down the right wing on his first shift, the 19-year-old native of North Vancouver charged the crease of Oil Kings goaltender Tristan Jarry. After he couldn’t get the first try past the 19-year-old Pittsburgh Penguins prospect, Reinhart managed to find space inside the post, putting home his first of the WHL campaign.
All of this within the first 32 seconds of the first period.
“The biggest thing is getting used to these minutes again,” Reinhart said Friday night. “I think it was important to get an early one to get my confidence back. It’s certainly a different type of game playing here and I think that was important, to get off to a good start. I imagine the legs will feel a lot better next game.”
The 6-foot-1 pivot averaged just 10:21 of ice time during his nine games with the Sabres. It’s safe to say Kootenay Ice head coach Ryan McGill utilized Reinhart for more than 10:21 Friday night.
The 2013 WHL Player of the Year was the focal point on a revamped power-play that saw seven opportunities and cashed in twice against the Oil Kings Friday.
Reinhart headlined the top power-play unit, which featured defenceman Rinat Valiev and Luke Philp on the point, with sharp-shooters Jaedon Descheneau and Tim Bozon up front.
If 32 seconds into the first period wasn’t fast enough, Reinhart shaved 11 seconds off that mark, scoring a power-play tally 21 seconds into the middle period off a cross-crease pass from Tim Bozon.
“I think we can still get better, create more,” Reinhart said. “The puck movement was there. I think we need to get back to moving ourselves a little bit more. We were a little bit static at times. There’s stuff to work on. We’ve only had one day of practice on the power play.”
In addition to Reinhart’s return, Bozon was back in the lineup for the first time since aggravating a lower-body injury Oct. 25 in Spokane.
The native of Valbonne, France, was just as involved as Reinhart, using pin-point accuracy to shelf a wrist shot over the glove of Jarry for a 3-2 Ice advantage midway through the second period.
“When I play at 100 per cent, I think I can be dangerous,” Bozon said Friday. “Against Calgary and Spokane, I was not 100 per cent. It was tough for me. I wanted to make sure I came back 100 per cent.
“It was long and really frustrating. I was injured when I came here [from AHL Hamilton] and we did everything possible to get me into the lineup as soon as possible…After those two games against Calgary and Spokane, we understood that I needed to be 100 per cent to come back otherwise it was not going to get better and I wouldn’t be efficient on the ice.”
Austin Vetterl padded the hosts’ lead with the team’s second power-play marker of the night.
Oil Kings defenceman Aaron Irving made things tight with a power-play goal of his own with less than five minutes to play in regulation, but the Ice held on.
Despite the loss, Oil Kings goaltender Tristan Jarry was outstanding between the pipes, making 35 saves on 39 shots.
At the other end of the rink, Kootenay Ice puck-stopper Wyatt Hoflin rejected 19 pucks on 22 attempts, earning his fifth win of the season.
The victory pushed the Ice to 5-13-0-0, while the Oil Kings fell to 9-8-0-2 with the loss.
“We’re rolling. We’ve got almost everybody back in the lineup, so we’re a little bit deeper,” Bozon added. “It’s good. Now we have to build off every game. Today was a good game and we have to bring that for tomorrow’s game. It’s going to be another tough one. We have to catch up in the standings and we want to roll.”
The Ice will look to make it three consecutive victories Saturday night when they welcome the Swift Current Broncos (11-8-0-2) to Western Financial Place.
The two teams met Oct. 10 in Swift Current, where goaltender Landow Bow shutout the Ice en route to a 5-0 Broncos win.
Swift Current was in action Friday night, getting past the Lethbridge Hurricanes (5-9-3-1) in overtime by a final margin of 4-3.
As for the Oil Kings, they wrap up a seven-game road trip Saturday night in Lethbridge. It’s been a rough road swing for Edmonton, now 0-5-0-1 through its last six games away from Rexall Place.
Notes: The Ice officially announced their leadership group for the 2014-15 season prior to Friday’s tilt. Reinhart will once again carry the captaincy, while Jaedon Descheneau and Luke Philp will serve as permanent alternates. Austin Vetterl and Rinat Valiev will rotate as the third alternate captain…F Jon Martin (upper body), F Kyle O’Connor (lower body) and D Tanner Faith (upper body) all missed Friday’s game due to injury…F Jared Legien was a healthy scratch…D Tyler King made his return to the lineup after missing four games with a lower-body injury…After recording a franchise low in attendance (1,901) Oct. 31 against the Red Deer Rebels, 2,307 fans took in the return of Sam Reinhart Friday night…