Three games in three nights proved to be a tough test for the Kootenay Ice.
Kootenay opened a triple header weekend by beating the Rebels 2-1 in overtime in Red Deer, before returning to Western Financial Place to fall 6-3 to the Kamloops Blazers.
The Ice wrapped it all up on Sunday evening as the Rebels followed the Ice back to Cranbrook and edged out a come-from-behind 3-2 win.
The Ice had the lead three times against the Blazers on Saturday and gave up a two-goal lead against the Rebels on Sunday.
Needless to say, Kootenay head coach Ryan McGill was not happy with the way the weekend turned out, and said he wants to see more leadership from veteran players.
“We have to develop some maturity as a hockey team and that will come from this young group,” said McGill. “But within that young group, the older guys got to step up and foster that maturity and help these guys through it.
“Right now, we’re not getting that from our older guys.”
Jaedon Descheneau’s first goal of the season couldn’t have come at a better time as his overtime marker lifted the Ice 2-1 over the Rebels on Friday night in Alberta.
It was a tight affair and a battle between Ice stopper Mackenzie Skapski and his opponent Patrik Bartosak as Kootenay edged out the victory in their first trip to overtime this season.
Scoreless after two periods, the Rebels got on the board when Matt Bellerive beat Skapski after the Red Deer forward collected a puck off a dump-in that deflected of the linesman. Skapski was already behind the net to play the puck, and was out of position for Bellerive’s shot.
However, the chances kept coming for the Ice, until Kootenay Luke Philp found the equalizer with five minutes to go in the game.
On a superb solo effort, Philp stole the puck from a Rebel’s defenceman, cut around his check, and roofed a shot over Bartosak’s glove to send the contest into overtime.
It only took 39 seconds for the Ice to end the game as Descheneau finished off of Sam Reinhart’s effort.
Reinhart fought through a couple defenders while advancing through the slot and got a shot off, which Bartosak turned away, however Descheneau took the puck at the side of the net and wrapped around to stuff it in on his forehand on the other side.
“It was good, finally got the monkey off my back,” said Descheneau, who had been snakebitten for goals so far in the season. “But what I have to say, is Sam [Reinhart] with his effort—that goal never would’ve happened if it wasn’t for him.”
The undefeated-in -regulation Blazer train rolled into town on Saturday night as the Ice fell 6-3 to the CHL’s top-ranked team, despite taking the lead three consecutive times during the contest.
Kootenay opened with a strong first shift against the Blazers and kept up the pressure, until rookie Collin Shirley notched his third goal of the season.
Jaedon Descheneau drove to the net from the left wing and cut across the slot, but lost a handle on the puck. Shirley scooped it up and fired it past Blazers goalie Cole Cheveldave for a 1-0 lead.
Mackenzie Skapski was sharp in net for the Ice, making a good stop at the side of the net on Brendan Ranford and denying Tim Bozon, who tried to redirect a cross-ice pass in the slot.
However, Colin Smith got one by the Ice goaltender late in the period to tie up the game, capitalizing after the puck went through a couple different players as the Blazers advanced into the zone.
The Ice pulled ahead in the second period when Descheneau picked off a sloppy pass in the offensive zone and beat Cheveldave low blocker side.
However, the Ice found themselves killing a two-man advantage at the halfway mark, when Lipon banged in a backdoor feed to tie up the game again.
For the third time, the Ice took the lead when Brock Montgomery shoveled in the garbage during a goal-mouth scramble.
Forty seconds later, Tim Bozon put the puck over Skapski’s shoulder and off the twine on a breakaway as both teams went into the final frame tied 3-3.
The Blazers needed only 25 seconds to pull ahead, when Sam Grist wristed a shot from the point that beat Skapski glove side.
Bozon got his second of the night on a power play goal, snapping a shot top corner from the slot after receiving a pass from Tyler Hansen.
In the final minutes, Cheveldave took a delay of game penalty for clearing the puck over the glass, and the Ice pulled Skapski to field six attackers against four Blazers.
But the Ice couldn’t generate anything, and Lipon sunk their chances when he cleared the puck off the boards, which slid down the ice and into the gaping Kootenay net.
Skapski made 23 saves for the Ice, while Cheveldave made 22 stops for the Blazers.
Kootenay was good for one power play goal in six chances, while Kamloops struck twice in three opportunities.
“You got to respect them, they’re a good team and all, but there’s no excuses why we can’t come out and beat them,” said Descheneau. “I thought we played well at times, but there were times when we weren’t well and that’s what came back to bite us.”
The Ice wrapped up their weekend by facing the Rebels again, at Western Financial Place, but Red Deer got some revenge and edged out a 3-2 win as Charles Inglis scored twice to lead his team to victory.
Ice backup Wyatt Hoflin got the nod, making 28 saves, while Patrik Bartosak turned away 30 shots for the win.
Collin Shirley picked up a rebound in front of Bartosak and had all the time and space to score his fourth goal of the season for a first-period Kootenay lead.
Kootenay had a couple quality scoring chances and were buzzing around the Rebels zone, keeping Bartosak busy, who kept his team alive by making some great saves.
Descheneau doubled the lead in the second, getting his third goal in three games by wristing a low shot that tipped of a Rebel defenceman’s stick while entering the offensive zone.
However, the Rebels turned things around over the remainder of the frame.
Kevin Pochuk collected a loose puck at the top of the slot and wristed a shot past Hoflin, while Charles Inglis took advantage of a bad Ice line change when Kootenay was killing a penalty, and capitalized on a fat rebound with no one checking him.
The two teams were locked in a 2-2 tie for most of the final frame until Inglis scored again on the man-advantage, shovelling in the puck off a scramble just outside the crease.
Ice captain Drew Czerwonka took a dangerous check to the head by Riley Boomgaarden, and while the Kootenay veteran initially left for the dressing room, he soon returned to the bench.
The Ice power play was listless, as Red Deer did a formidable job of killing both of two opportunities, while Kootenay gave up a pair of goals in as many chances for the Rebels.
Off the ice, it was interesting to note that veteran Erik Benoit was a healthy scratch, as McGill said he hopes the move sends a message to everyone.
“I don’t want casual players playing,” said McGill.