Kootenay Ice downgrade Hurricanes

Lethbridge falls 8-1 at home and drops a 4-2 decision in Cranbrook at Western Financial Place.

Kootenay Ice forward Zach Franko goes for the puck during WHL action against the Lethbridge Hurricanes at Western Financial Place on Saturday.

Kootenay Ice forward Zach Franko goes for the puck during WHL action against the Lethbridge Hurricanes at Western Financial Place on Saturday.

The Kootenay Ice downgraded the Hurricanes twice this weekend, thumping their opponents 8-1 in Lethbridge on Friday and winning 4-2 in Cranbrook on Saturday.

Those two victories against their divisional rivals put the Ice into fifth place in the Eastern Conference, as the WHL begins to head into the final stretch of the season.

“Every point counts from here on in, these four points—we’re in fifth right now, try to get up to fourth, maybe even third, so that’s our goal,” said Ice defenceman Jagger Dirk. “Every game, just win each period, so we get the two points at the end of the night so we can move up in the standings.”

After the lopsided defeat in Lethbridge, the Hurricanes kept it even on Saturday after the first period before the Kootenay Ice opened up a lead on their way to the win.

Ice captain Sam Reinhart had a goal and two assists, while Jagger Dirk, Rinat Valiev and Luke Philp also provided scoring, while Reid Duke and Riley Sheen responded for the Hurricanes.

Ice goaltender Mackenzie Skapski made 32 saves for the win, while Teagan Sacher stopped 30 shots for Lethbridge.

“I wouldn’t say we played our best game, but I’d say we did enough to get the win and that’s all that matters,” said Ice forward Austin Vetterl.

Valiev opened the scoring, trailing the play and finishing on a tic-tac-toe play from Reinhart and Jaedon Descheneau, but Duke answered back late in the frame on a powerplay goal with a shot from the point.

Kootenay built up their lead in the second period, first with Dirk stuffing home a wraparound followed by Reinhart sniping a powerplay goal.

Frustrations came to a boiling point late in the frame, with Jon Martin and Macoy Erkamps dropping the mitts, a preview of what was to come in the third period.

After Luke Philp made it a three-goal lead for a 4-1 score, things got ugly when a couple fights broke out following a save by Skapski in Kootenay territory.

Five Ice players headed to the penalty box and the Canes were given a four-minute powerplay.

Riley Sheen managed to rip a shot past Skapski on the ensuing man-advantage, then subsequently took an unsportsmanlike penalty during his goal celebration after skating by the Ice sin bin.

It was relatively smooth sailing the rest of the game, despite more fisticuffs between Tim Bozon and Jamal Watson, and surviving a six-on-four Canes powerplay in the final minute of the game.

“Our team did a good job of responding to their physicality and their so-called toughness,” said Dirk.

“…A lot of stuff went down but we stuck up for each other, stuck up for ourselves and going back into the room after the game was a pretty good feeling.”

The Ice were merciless the night before in Lethbridge, building a 5-1 lead after the first period on the road to an 8-1 win.

Bozon led the way with a hat trick and an assist, while Reinhart also notched a goal and two helpers. Scoring was also provided on a pair from Philp, while Descheneau and Zach Franko also found the back of the net.

In the opening 20 minutes, Philp tallied a pair, while Descheneau, Reinhart and Bozon also lit the goal lamp for a massive lead. The lone response from the Canes came from Sheen in the latter half of the frame.

Bozon scored within the first two minutes of the second period, and completed his hat trick in the third, with Franko scoring in the final five minutes of the game.

Like Saturday, It was also a penalty-laden affair, with five fights, including a late-game set of fisticuffs as tempers flared.

Kootenay hits the road this week for games against Moose Jaw, Regina and a pair in Brandon.

NOTES: Sam Reinhart extended his point streak to 13 games over the weekend, with 11 goals and 19 assists over that span. He has been recognized as the WHL Player of the Week, which was announced on Monday. Ryan Chynoweth (upper-body) and Kyle O’Connor (lower body) were scratched in both games.