Ice drop Hitmen in playoff opener

Philp scores twice, Descheneau nets game-winner as Kootenay steals 4-3 win in Calgary.

They say history repeats itself.

While it isn’t fair to look too far ahead, the Kootenay Ice followed in the footsteps of last season’s playoff opener and stole a 4-3 win against the Calgary Hitmen in the Saddledome on Friday night.

Led by Luke Philp, who tallied two goals and an assist, the Ice got a shorthanded marker from Jaedon Descheneau halfway through the final frame that stood as the game-winner.

Defenceman Tyler King rounded out the scoring for the Kootenay squad, while Jake Bean, Kenton Helgesen and Connor Rankin replied for the Hitmen.

Ice stopper Wyatt Hoflin stood between the pipes, turning away 29 shots for the win, with Hitmen netminder Brendan Burke making 27 saves in defeat.

Kootenay won the special teams battle, scoring once in three opportunities with the man-advantage, while only giving up one goal on the penalty kill and adding a shorthanded effort to the scoresheet.

With some good early pressure, the Hitmen kept the Ice busy in their own zone for the opening five minutes or so.

However, when the Ice got their first real scoring opportunity, they made no mistake, with Philp putting home a rebound off a shot from Descheneau at the top of the face-off circle.

Seven minutes later, on Kootenay’s first powerplay, Philp teed up King at the blueline, who blasted a slap shot past Burke.

In the dying seconds of the period with a powerplay of their own, the Hitmen escaped with a one-goal deficit as Bean took a cross-ice feed and snuck a short-side shot past Hoflin.

After a furious second-period start from the Ice that included at least three quality scoring chances, the Hitmen were able to tie up the game as Helgesen slid a backhander past Hoflin after Radel Fazleev dangled around in the Kootenay zone.

But the Ice jumped ahead again with 2:43 remaining in the frame, and it was none other than Philp who banged home a slick behind the net feed from Matt Alfaro.

With Ryan Chynoweth in the box in the third period, Tanner Lishchynsky got the puck to Austin Vetterl in the neutral zone, who skated in on a shorthanded odd-man rush with Descheneau. Vetterl slid the puck over and Descheneau slid it past Burke for a two-goal lead.

With 10 minutes remaining in the game, the Hitmen scrambled for a response and got one three minutes later when took advantage of a defensive zone turnover and beat Hoflin from the high slot.

Though Burke headed to the bench with just under a minute left in the game, the Ice held off the Hitmen in the dying seconds to claim the opening win.

Game Two goes down on Sunday afternoon in Calgary at 4 p.m. and will be broadcast by ShawTV.