There wasn’t much to cheer about Friday night at Western Financial Place as the Moose Jaw Warriors defeated the Kootenay Ice 5-1.
Perhaps the brightest spot of the evening came when the Kootenay Ice and fans were given a brief glimpse into the potential franchise future between the pipes as 16-year-old Declan Hobbs made his WHL debut in relief of Wyatt Hoflin with 15:17 to play in the third period.
“It was pretty nerve-racking getting out there in the last minutes, so I was pretty cold,” Hobbs said Friday night. “Once I got in there I found where I wanted to be, sort of relaxed a bit and got a little bit more confident with every save I made. It was good.”
Hobbs, a native of Saskatoon, was perfect in turning aside all 10 shots he faced Friday night after Hoflin was victimized four times on 20 shots.
A third-round selection (53rd overall) of the Kootenay Ice at the 2013 WHL Bantam Draft, Hobbs was recalled from the Saskatoon Contacts of the Saskatchewan Midget AAA Hockey League Thursday morning.
Despite suggesting he was nervous, Hobbs looked anything but in his brief stint between the pipes, making a handful of saves, including a number of stops with his team playing shorthanded late in the game.
“He looked good,” said Kootenay Ice forward Austin Vetterl of Hobbs’ debut. “We took a lot of penalties so he got a lot of shots on net. We didn’t give him much help, but he did a good job back there. It’s obviously nice for him to get a little taste like that and perform well.”
Thursday afternoon, Kootenay Ice general manager Jeff Chynoweth said he believes Hobbs has the potential to be the franchise’s future in net. If Friday’s small sample size suggests anything, Chynoweth and the Ice will be happy with what they have in Hobbs.
“I’m trying to find a steady balance in my game and have as much confidence as I can to stay in it every game and give my team the best chance to win,” Hobbs said. “If I can carry that over here [to Cranbrook from Saskatoon], I think that’ll be good.”
Hobbs wasn’t given the chance to keep his team in it Friday as he started the game on the bench, though he certainly did admirable work in keeping things from getting further out of hand.
Prior to Hobbs’ entry into the game, slow starts to each period cost the Ice.
“Teams are just outworking us,” Vetterl said. “That’s a problem. We’ve got to fix that. We think it’s going to be easy. Like I said, our work ethic is the biggest problem.”
Warriors forward Axel Blomqvist opened the scoring 3:01 into regulation by banging a loose puck home at the side of the Ice net.
In the second period, Warriors forward Tanner Eberle doubled the visitor’s advantage with a short-handed tally 28 seconds in.
After Warriors captain Brayden Point added a third Moose Jaw goal in the second period, Eberle was on hand once again with the 4-0 dagger 4:43 into the third period.
Three of the Warriors first four goals came in the opening five minutes of the respective period they were scored in.
Vetterl cut into the Warriors lead with a short-handed goal of his own and Point rounded out the scoring with an empty-net marker.
Friday’s physical affair resulted in the two teams combining for 17 minor penalties and 11 power-play opportunities. Oddly enough, the Warriors went 0-for-7 with the man advantage, while the Ice were 0-for-4.
“We’ve got to score on the power play,” Vetterl said. “We’re not a big enough team where we can go toe-to-toe with [a team like the Warriors] in the physical department. We’ve got to capitalize on our chances and make them pay when they’re running around taking dumb penalties.”
Next up, the Kootenay Ice welcome the Saskatoon Blades to Western Financial Place Sunday at 6 p.m.
“We’ve got to out work them,” Vetterl said looking forward to Sunday. “They’re going to come in and do the same thing [as Moose Jaw]. We know they’re a hard-working team. They’ve beat us three times now. We owe them one. We’ve got to come in, out work them, beat them to every puck, get pucks to the net and get greasy on them.”
While there’s been no decision as to which of the three healthy Kootenay Ice goaltenders will start Sunday night, it will make for a nice story should Hobbs get the green light against his hometown team.
“That would be really exciting,” Hobbs said. “I’ve got a few teammates I used to play with on that team, so that would be pretty fun. My goalie partner last year is actually on [the Blades], so it would be kind of cool if I could play against him in my first start.”
Hobbs old goalie partner comes in the form of 17-year-old Brock Hamm, who joined the Blades midseason after starting the campaign with the Humboldt Broncos of the SJHL.
Hobbs and Hamm played together as a duo with the Saskatoon Contacts last season.
Notes: The Kootenay Ice were without head coach Ryan McGill (upper body) for the second consecutive game…The Ice scratched G Keelan Williams, D Bryan Allbee, D Dylan Overdyk, F Austin Wellsby and D Tanner Faith (shoulder, four to six months)…The Warriors went without D Tyler Brown, F Ben Duppereault (undisclosed), F Jayden Halbgewachs (undisclosed) and F Noah Gregor (upper body)…