With the Kootenay Ice and Prince Albert Raiders tied 2-2 in the second period, Tim Bozon took a backdoor pass at the side of the net and fired a laser towards the Raiders cage.
The red light went on. The referee signalled a goal. Western Financial Place erupted as the native of Valbonne, France, gave the Ice a 3-2 lead.
Or did he?
“Myself and him [Raiders goaltender Rylan Parenteau] were the only ones on the ice that knew the puck didn’t go in,” Bozon said with a smile Friday night. “I was just asking the ref, because I thought [Parenteau] might have saved it behind the [goal] line…But he made a great save. For sure, I have to bury that, but you have to give credit to him as well.”
The goal would have been the third power-play marker of the night for the Kootenay Ice, but after a long review it was called back.
“I had an empty net and I thought I would score for sure,” Bozon said. “But the goalie came up with a great save at the last second — a highlight-reel save.”
Parenteau did everything in his power to give his team a chance to win Friday night, making 28 saves.
Parenteau faced a 17-shot barrage in the second period, including Bozon’s glorious opportunity, as the Ice were handed four power-play chances. By the time the night was done, the hosts saw nine extra-man opportunities, including three of the two-man variety.
Parenteau’s robbery of Bozon kept the game knotted, but it didn’t stop the Ice from cashing in on two other power-play opportunities earlier in the game.
“We have five pretty skilled guys that can move the puck and produce,” said Bozon, who finished the night with two power-play helpers. “Once we we had everybody back in the lineup, we all knew that the power play would come and get better. Obviously tonight, with three five-on-three [advantages] you have to bury at least one.”
Luke Philp opened the scoring on a one-man advantage 3:17 into the first period. Zak Zborosky grabbed a power-play tally midway through the second period on a five-on-three power play.
The Raiders were quick to respond to Philp’s opening goal, though one might argue it was actually the Ice responding on behalf of their guests.
Raiders forward Darcy Zaharichuk swooped low into Ice territory and as he cut towards the net, an errant pass from a Kootenay defender hit him square in the shin pads and bounced straight through goaltender Wyatt Hoflin, who appeared to be caught off guard by the quick turnover.
A mere 64 seconds later and Raiders forward Simon Stransky took control of the puck in the high slot before sending a low shot to the far side of Hoflin’s net. The puck clanked in off the post, giving the Raiders a quick 2-1 edge in the first period.
Queue Zak Zborosky.
After the Regina native tied the game in the second period, a scoreless third period ensured both Eastern Conference rivals would take home one point at the end of the night.
As overtime reached the verge of expiring, Zborosky skated across the Raiders line before cutting to the centre of the ice and wiring a high wrist shot from just above the faceoff circle. With Matt Alfaro providing the screen in front, Parenteau could only wave in blind hope.
“Considering it was my first one, it was pretty big. Considering how the game was and who we were playing, it was even bigger,” said Zborosky, whose overtime winner Friday night was the first of his WHL career. “Honestly, I saw it go in and was so excited.”
Zborosky’s winner came with 55.5 seconds remaining in the extra period.
“Considering how close we are to them in the standings, it’s a huge two points,” Zborosky said. “We’ve got to continue that until Christmas break and get these points, because we need them.
“We’re fighting for a playoff spot right now. We’ve got to continue to get these wins and finish off the first half of the season on a good note.”
The extra point pushed the Ice ahead of the Raiders in the Eastern Conference standings, keeping them within one point of the Moose Jaw Warriors and the final wild card position.
“It’s a huge game,” Bozon said. “They got a point as well, so I’m sure they’re pretty happy with that, too. But we have to focus on ourself right now. We’ve got pretty big games coming up. We want to catch up in the standings, so every game is a big one.”
Hoflin, starting his 21st consecutive game, made 25 saves for his 16th win of the campaign.
The loss dropped the Raiders to 15-17-1-0. Prince Albert wraps up a seven-game road trip Saturday night in Medicine Hat against the Tigers (22-8-1-1).
The Kootenay Ice (16-17-0-0) get right back to it Saturday night when they host a Central Division rival in the Edmonton Oil Kings (15-12-3-2).
The two teams have spit the season series to this point, with the Oil Kings claiming a 4-2 victory on home ice Sept. 20, before the Ice edged the Oil Kings 4-3 at Western Financial Place Nov. 7.
“They have a great goalie, so we have to get lots of pucks on him, lots of traffic,” Bozon said, referring to Oil Kings netminder Tristan Jarry. “Compete — they’re a good team with lots of experience. They won the Memorial Cup [in 2014], so they know what it’s all about. I think we have a chance if we play like tonight — don’t give up and play hard for 60 minutes.”
The Ice and Oil Kings faceoff Saturday night at 7 p.m.
Notes: Ice D Dylan Overdyk (concussion) missed his 10th game…Ice D Tanner Faith missed his third game since suffering an upper-body injury Dec. 6 at Spokane…The Raiders were without D Hunter Warner (shoulder) and D Sawyer Lange (upper body)…Friday also marked the Raiders debut for new acquisitions F Austin Glover and D Jesse Lees who were acquired from the Kelowna Rockets in exchange for D Josh Morrissey and F Gage Quinney Wednesday night. Both went pointless as Glover finished the night minus-1 while Lees was even…Ice F Jaedon Descheneau and D Rinat Valiev earned one assist each Friday night…