The Kootenay Ice experienced a new feeling this season after two home games over the weekend.
Though they nearly blew it against Lethbridge, the Ice salvaged a 4-3 shootout win on Friday, and put in a strong performance for a 3-1 win against the Regina Pats on Saturday.
With those wins, Kootenay Ice head coach Ryan McGill takes over the franchise record with 210 victories, previously held by Cory Clouston, who collected 209 during his Ice career.
The Ice also pared down their roster following the Regina contest, sending 16-year-old defenceman Dylan Overdyk back to the AMHL with the St. Albert Raiders.
Kootenay has had some shaky finishes in their first two games against Red Deer by playing poorly in the final period and allowing the Rebels to pull ahead.
“We did a great job in the first two periods, and then in the third period, we forgot to play,” said McGill, following the affair against Lethbridge. “You can’t give up three powerplay goals in the third period and expect to win. We did a good job managing the puck in the first two periods, but we made it really hard on ourselves in the third period and obviously, we’re happy that we got the two points, but we got a long ways to go as far as playing a full 60 minutes.”
Though the Ice held a 3-2 lead going into the third period against the ‘Canes, a late powerplay goal knotted things with just over a minute left, which was eventually decided in a shootout, when Jaedon Descheneau broke the scoreless deadlock.
The following night, the Ice earned a solid team victory against Regina with Wyatt Hoflin in between the pipes, while Descheneau terrorized the opposition’s defence and earned his second career hat trick.
Descheneau ended the weekend with three goals and three assists, while linemate Sam Reinhart tallied a goal and five assists.
Two new faces joined the Kootenay Ice bench as Ryan Chynoweth made his hometown debut in an Ice uniform, while Mike Dyck—who will support assistant coach Jay Henderson when McGill leaves for the World Juniors—also made his coaching debut.
Ryan Chynoweth, the son of Ice GM Jeff Chynoweth, didn’t take long to make an impression, dropping the gloves for a scrap with Lethbridge winger Jaimen Yakubowski on Friday and earning an assist in the Regina contest on Saturday.
The Ice played a solid 40 minutes on Friday, but the ‘Canes took advantage of a late powerplay in the third period to knot things at 3-3 with 1:24 remaining in the game.
All three of Lethbridge’s goals were scored with the man-advantage, as they capitalized three times in four chances on the powerplay.
Corbin Boes, who made 44 saves throughout the night, was by far the best player for the ‘Canes, as the Ice were turned away on many scoring opportunities.
“It’s a great feeling to get that first win, it’s always the hardest one to get,” said Descheneau. “We got to stick together and we got to start playing in the third period.”
Ice defenceman Landon Peel scored his first career WHL goal to kick it off in the second period, throwing the puck on net, which pinballed off the post, off the back leg Boes, and into the goal.
Sam Reinhart picked up a pass in front of the net a few minutes later to double the lead.
‘Canes captain Josh Derko put his team up in the final period, snapping a high shot past Ice goaltender Mackenzie Skapski on the powerplay.
Bryton Sayers tied it up with a tap-in from the backdoor on a slick cross-crease pass from Remi Laurencelle just over a minute later.
Kootenay regained the lead with eight minutes to go, when Levi Cable teed up a slap shot from the point that beat Boes on an Ice powerplay.
However, Lethbridge took advantage of a late man-advantage and Tyler Wong scored after a scramble in front of the crease to send the game into overtime and a shootout.
After five rounds of scoreless shooters, Kootenay took the win when Descheneau beat Boes up high on the gloveside, while Derko shot wide of Skapski.
“I heard Gilly on the bench saying he’s [Boes] open up high, so I thought I’d go in, do a little fake and rip it up high and hope for the best, and it worked out,” said Descheneau.
The Ice netminder ended up with 29 saves for the night. Kootenay’s powerplay also struggled, with one goal in seven opportunities.
It was a different body in net as Hoflin, who got in 16 games last year, made his debut in the new 2013-14 campaign against the Pats, making some solid saves in net as the Ice tallied their second straight victory.
“It’s huge for me,” said Hoflin. “It’s confidence—it’s something I got to play with. It’s a stepping stone in the right direction and it’s big for me.”
Descheneau supplied the offence by posting his second career hat trick.
After a scoreless first period, Reinhart made a great solo effort to get the puck to the net, and Descheneau buried it for his first marker.
Near the end of the second frame, Descheneau, perched at the top of the slot, one-timed a great feed from Reinhart at the sideboards to double the lead.
In the third, Chandler Stephenson hit the post on a Regina powerplay, but got his goal eventually on a shorthanded odd-man rush, snapping up a fat rebound with three minutes remaining in the game.
With an empty net in the final minute, Descheneau collected the puck in the neutral zone and chipped it down the ice to complete his three-goal performance.
McGill takes over franchise win record
History was made on Friday night when the Kootenay Ice won their 4-3 shootout contest with the Lethbridge Hurricanes, as bench boss Ryan McGill surpassed former head coach Cory Clouston for the franchise win record.
Clouston, during his five-year tenure as head coach between 2002-2007, tallied 209 regular season wins, and McGill tied that number last year with Kootenay’s final win of the 2012-13 season in Calgary, with a 5-4 victory over the Hitmen.
During his first tenure with the Ice, including their final season in Edmonton, McGill tallied 174 victories, and added 35 last year when he rejoined the franchise for the second time around.
The victory over Lethbridge on Friday now gives him 210 wins for the franchise lead.
“I’m very proud of the accomplishments the Kootenay Ice organization has had over the last 16 years,” said McGill. “The biggest thing is, you want to win every year and I think we got a good group of kids here that can provide that, and make sure that we don’t have the slow start that we had last year, and make sure that we provide a winning franchise here again in the near future.”