Goaltender Tristan Jarry is best known for stealing scoring opportunities from the opposition. Saturday night at Western Financial Place, the Pittsburgh Penguins prospect gift-wrapped an early Christmas present for the Kootenay Ice, who skated to a 6-3 victory over the Edmonton Oil Kings.
With 12 minutes to play in the third period and the game knotted 3-3, Jarry gave the puck away behind his own net. Zak Zborosky was johnny-on-the-spot and fed a wide-open Matt Alfaro for the game-winning goal.
“Zborosky decided to go behind the net and pressure [Jarry] and he had no option,” Alfaro said, recalling his game-winning tally. “I was open in front of the net and [Zborosky] got it out to me.
“I knew I had to one-time it because I knew Jarry and the defenceman were sliding in trying to block it, so I decided to get it in as fast as I could.”
The gaping cage welcomed Alfaro’s quick release with open arms. Defenceman Bryan Allbee and forward Ryan Chynoweth added late goals for the Ice, who improved to 17-17-0-0, clawing into the second and final wildcard spot in the WHL’s Eastern Conference.
After going without a point through the first 13 games of the season, Alfaro has found a bit more offensive touch in recent weeks, chipping in with three goals and five assists through the past 10 games.
“I had a slow start to the year coming off wrist surgery,” Alfaro said. “It’s good to chip in offensively, especially with Sam [Reinhart] gone. It’s always nice to get that from your second- and third-line guys.”
With Reinhart in Toronto at Team Canada Selection Camp ahead of the 2015 IIHF World Junior Championship, Jaedon Descheneau continued to carry some of the offensive load as he opened the scoring less than four minutes into regulation with a power-play deflection in tight. The St. Louis Blues prospect added a helper midway through the period as defenceman Tyler King extended the hosts lead to 2-0.
Oil Kings forward Brandon Baddock, who recorded and goal and an assist Saturday night, kept the visitors within one goal heading into the first intermission.
Zborosky restored the two-goal edge for the Ice early in the second period. Taking a feed from Alfaro, the second-year forward wired a high wrist shot eerily similar to his overtime winner from Friday night. The puck found a hole in Jarry’s armour and trickled through for a 3-1 Ice lead.
“We hang out lots off the ice, so I think that translates lots on the ice,” Alfaro said of his chemistry with Zborosky. “We know where each other are going to be all the time. We’re good friends, so that kind of helps.”
The Oil Kings were able to tie things up with early third-period goals from defenceman Blake Orban and forward Brandon Ralph.
Orban’s tally came from the side boards 25 seconds into the final period, while Ralph jumped on a rebound in front to tie the game.
Ice goaltender Wyatt Hoflin, starting his 22nd consecutive game, made 24 saves for his 17th win of the campaign.
At the other end, Jarry was victimized five times on 29 shots as Chynoweth’s goal was scored on the empty net with 35 seconds remaining.
The Ice (17-17-0-0) moved to within one point of the Oil Kings (15-13-3-2) for fourth place in the WHL’s Central Division. The win also jumped the Ice past the Moose Jaw Warriors (15-15-2-1) and into the second and final wildcard position in the WHL’s Eastern Conference.
Next up, the Ice welcome the Kamloops Blazers (12-18-3-2) to Western Financial Place Tuesday night. The Tuesday tilt is the last for the Ice prior to the holiday break. The Ice return to action Dec. 27 when the Calgary Hitmen (18-11-1-2) visit Cranbrook.
Notes: The Ice had five players register multi-point games Saturday night, including F Ryan Chynoweth (1G, 1A), F Luke Philp (2A), F Jaedon Descheneau (1G, 1A), F Matt Alfaro (1G, 1A) and F Zak Zborosky (1G, 1A)… The Oil Kings saw multi-point performances from three players: F Brandon Baddock (1G, 1A), F Brandon Ralph (1G, 1A) and F Tyler Robertson (2A)… Ice D Dylan Overdyk (concussion) missed his 11th game… Ice D Tanner Faith (upper body) missed his fourth game…The Oil Kings were without five regulars due to injury as F Luke Bertolucci (upper body), F Cole Benson (lower body), D Edgars Kulda (lower body), D Jake Kohlhauser (illness) and D Jesse Mills (upper body) were all unavailable. The Oil Kings were also without F Mads Eller, who is with Team Denmark for the World Junior A Challenge (hosted in Kindersley, Sask.) and World Junior Championship…