Giving up a lead was a common thread for the Kootenay Ice in their final pair of games against the Calgary Hitmen this weekend.
However, that still produced two different results.
Cody Sylvester scored a pair of goals in the third period to lift the Hitmen to a 5-3 win on Friday at Western Financial Place, while Sam Reinhart broke a 4-4 deadlock to propel Kootenay towards the victory at the Scotiabank Saddledome the following night.
In both games, the Ice ended the opening period with the lead, however, in both games, the Hitmen came back.
“Most games have momentum swings in it and I think we did a good job of making sure that when Calgary responded, we came back and our next shift, we got the momentum going back in our direction,” said Ice assistant coach Chad Kletzel.
Jaedon Descheneau put the Ice up ahead 2-0 on Saturday with a pair of goals after the first period, but that didn’t last.
Zane Jones, Brady Brassart and Calder Brooks scored consecutive goals for the Hitmen to erase the deficit and take the lead, before Jordyn Boyd knotted things back up for Kootenay.
Boyd scored the go-ahead goal in the final frame, but Brassart responded to make things even with 10 minutes remaining in the contest.
However, Reinhart scored the game winner with just over four minutes left on the clock.
Ice goaltender Wyatt Hoflin got the start, but was replaced by Mackenzie Skapski after Brooks’ goal halfway through the second period. Hoflin made six saves, while Skapski turned away seven shots. Mack Shields stopped 21 shots on net for Calgary.
Though Kootenay was able to stage a comeback on Saturday, it wasn’t the case the night before on home ice.
Descheneau fought his way into the slot for a shot, with Luke Philp on the doorstep to bang in the rebound to draw first blood. Jon Martin dropped the puck for Reinhart as he entered the zone a few minutes later, and the young Ice sniper converted for a two-goal lead.
Brooks responded for the Hitmen by the end of the period, splitting the Kootenay defensive line and putting a backhander past Skapski.
The two teams traded goals in the second period, as Austin Vetterl redirected a slap shot from Joey Leach, while Brassart answered back for Calgary.
Sylvester tied the game in the third period, and then put his team ahead with two quick goals. Brassart added an empty netter to finalize the score at 5-3.
“Soft plays and not doing the right things,” said Ice captain Joey Leach, on what the team struggled with. “We’re smarter than that and we got to be able to make those plays—a couple turnovers ended up costing us in the back of the net.”
It’s deja vu for the Ice as they face the Edmonton Oil Kings in the first round of the WHL playoffs, and will open the first round on the road next Friday and Saturday at Rexall Place.