The Kootenay Ice are starting to master the mechanics of a comeback.
In both games against the Edmonton Oil Kings this weekend, the Ice came back from a deficit—losing 4-3 in a shootout on Friday, and edging out a 5-4 win on Sunday.
Sunday’s win featured the return of captain Sam Reinhart from the World Junior Championship, who scored twice and posted an assist to lead the team to victory.
Newcomer Zach Franko, who was acquired last Wednesday from the Kelowna Rockets, also scored a pair of goals—including the game-winner—while Tim Bozon also lit the goal lamp.
It was a special night for both Reinhart and Franko, surpassing the 200-point mark in their WHL careers.
In both games, especially on Sunday, the third period was the best 20 minutes from the Ice all night.
“In the [2nd] intermission, we knew we had something to prove and we had a lot better game in the third,” said Reinhart, after Sunday’s win. “We had more compete and we wanted to go out and show that and I think we did.”
Mackenzie Skapski got the call in the crease, stopping 25 shots, while Tristan Jarry made 24 saves for the Oil Kings.
Franko struck first for the Ice in the opening period for a brief lead, but Edmonton got their offensive talent rolling soon after.
Brandon Baddock tied it up on a sharp-angle shot from the corner, and Edmonton Oilers prospect Mitch Moroz added a pair of goals in the second period for a 3-1 lead after 40 minutes.
Despite a two-goal deficit, the Ice came out with some fire in the third, led by Reinhart, who pulled a nifty toe-drag at the top of the face-off circle to snap a low shot into the corner.
Not to be outdone, the Oil Kings scored again off a tip from import forward Edgars Kulda, but the Ice kept up the pressure and were rewarded with three straight goals.
Bozon got the ball rolling, scoring a similar goal to Reinhart’s with a nice toe-drag to beat Jarry, then Reinhart—31 seconds later—added his second of the night when he roofed a shot just outside of the crease.
Franko posted the game winner on the powerplay just over the 10 minute mark of the frame, which made for a tight finish as Edmonton pressed for the equalizer.
“We just stuck with the game plan and we turned it up a notch and luckily we came out with the win,” said Franko.
Both teams capitalized once in three opportunities on the powerplay.
It was a somewhat similar story on Friday night, as a late goal from Luke Philp knotted the game at 3-3, which was eventually won by the Oil Kings in the shootout.
Kootenay was able to salvage a point out of the affair largely due to the work of goaltender Wyatt Hoflin, who faced a shooting gallery at 44 shots with 41 saves.
“I though we came out pretty flat to start, they kind of took the pace from us in the first and second periods and I thought that we came out with a good effort in the third,” said Zach McPhee.
After a scoreless first period, McPhee broke the deadlock with a booming slapshot at the point on the powerplay. However, Curtis Lazar tied it back up again, firing home a loose puck in Kootenay territory and Henrik Sammuelsson put Edmonton up to a 2-1 lead late in the frame, trailing the play and converting a rebound.
The two teams traded goals in the final period, as Bozon tied it up at 2-2 before Kulda beat Hoflin up high for another Edmonton lead.
With 1:40 remaining on the clock, Philp tied up the game with an unassisted effort in front of the crease, which sent the game to overtime and eventually, a shootout.
Samuelsson and Reid Petryk both scored to give the Oil Kings the win, while Bozon and Philp were stopped by Jarry.
The three points lifts Kootenay up to 48, which puts them in seventh place in the Eastern Conference, two ahead of Prince Albert and Red Deer, which are tied at 46.
NOTES: Sam Reinhart was in the building during Friday’s game but had only just arrived from the airport by the time the puck dropped, and was a healthy scratch. The Kootenay Ice will be at East Side Mario’s on Tuesday night from 6 p.m. — 9 p.m. to wait on tables, with all tips going towards the team’s education fund.