Ice split weekend, close within a point of playoff race

Kootenay posts a loss and a win against Wheat Kings during road trip into Saskatchewan.

The Kootenay Ice headed into Brandon looking for a harvest, but only came out with half of what they were looking for over the weekend.

The Wheaties broke a third period tie on Friday to win 3-2, however the Ice bounced back the following night when Jon Martin scored the overtime winner to lift  Kootenay to a 4-3 OT win.

“I think we came out with more jump and more urgency in the second game, as compared to the first game,” said Ice assistant coach Chad Kletzel, on the difference between the two meetings. “We had had more guys playing the game we want to play.”

Whether it was a hangover from the 16-hour bus ride or not, the Ice came out a little flat in their opening matchup on Friday, as both teams managed to keep each other scoreless in the first.

Brock Montgomery opened the scoring in the middle frame on the powerplay, but Jack Palmer tied it up for Brandon three minutes later.

Ryan Pulock, a highly touted defensive prospect in this year’s NHL draft, broke the deadlock late in the frame for his 13th goal of the season.

Austin Vetterl tied up the game six minutes into the final period, however, Jayce Hawryluk scored a late powerplay goal to give the Wheat Kings the lead and eventual win.

Ice goaltender Mackenzie Skapski got the start, making 23 saves in defeat, while rookie goaltender Jordan Papirny got his first career WHL win for the Wheaties.

It was a different result the next night, even if Brandon got a brief lead at the start.

Pulock made it 1-0 with five minutes to go in the first period, however Montgomery scored his fourth goal in as many games, early in the second to even it up.

Jon Martin and Kyle O’Connor both found the back of the net for the Ice by the halfway mark of the frame, but Nick Buonassisi made it a one-goal game by the end of the period.

Marek Kalus scored a shorthanded marker in the final frame to tie up the game and send it into overtime.

Martin’s goal, with 1:17 left in the OT period, gave the Ice the first win of their three-game trip into Saskatchewan.

Skapski earned the win with 24 saves, while Curtis Honey turned away a barrage of 38 shots for the Wheat Kings.

The back-to-back nature of the schedule allowed the Ice coaching staff to make a few changes for Saturday’s game, but it was up to the players to step up to the task, said Kletzel.

“Adjustments and that don’t really work unless you have everyone buying in and doing them,” Kletzel said. “That’s the main thing. Any system will work as long as everyone is doing it together as a five-man unit and they’re committed. And we were more committed on the second night.”

The win, coupled with Lethbridge losing to Prince George on Saturday night, puts the Ice one point behind the Hurricanes for the Eastern Conference’s last playoff spot.

Kootenay heads into Swift Current for an afternoon meeting with the Broncos on Monday.

“You’re aware of it, but I don’t think it’s a focus,” said Kletzel, of the playoff implications. “You’re focus is on preparation and your day-to-day routine and being ready to play. We do a lot of discussion about taking care of your individual play, which leads into taking care of your team play.”