For the second consecutive night, the Kootenay Ice received a highlight-reel performance between the pipes and still left the rink empty-handed.
Rookie goaltender Keelan Williams earned his first career WHL start and, according to Kootenay Ice head coach Ryan McGill, turned in a “fantastic game” in relief of Wyatt Hoflin, making 35 saves in a losing effort as the Ice fell 3-1 to the Moose Jaw Warriors.
“He didn’t get a lot of help defensively,” McGill said over the phone Thursday night. “But he was there and gave us a chance going into the third period to win.”
The 18-year-old native of Calgary, Alta. beat out Jayden Sittler for the backup role at the conclusion of pre-season play and early indications suggest the decision to keep the calm and collected puck-stopper in Cranbrook was the right one. Williams’ 35 saves Thursday largely consisted of the acrobatic, show-stopping variety.
“Certainly not taking anything away from Wyatt, but if this kid [Williams] is going to push like that, we need to turn this into a competition rather than into a break [for Wyatt Hoflin],” McGill added.
“[Williams] has taken a step tonight to prove himself.”
Thursday night represented the first time in Kootenay’s first seven games Hoflin wasn’t in the blue paint to start the game. Williams had only seen cleanup duty Sept. 27 in a 7-1 loss to the Red Deer Rebels.
After a scoreless first period, the Warriors grabbed the lead for good when Torrin White popped a power-play marker past Williams 4:40 into the second. After handing the Regina Pats eight power-play opportunities Wednesday evening, the Ice followed up by giving another eight extra-man chances to the Warriors Thursday. Moose Jaw made good on 25 per cent of its power-play opportunities when Tanner Eberle added a later insurance marker with four seconds to play in regulation.
Warriors forward Brett Howden gave the Warriors the only insurance tally they needed midway through the third period when he banged a rebound past a helpless Williams who had already made one or two stops on the cagey 16-year-old Warrior. Howden’s goal put the Warriors up 2-0 in front of an announced crowd of 3,319 at Mosaic Place, and though Luke Philp’s short-handed tally with less than two minutes to play added a bit of suspense, the Ice were unable to draw even and fell to 1-5-0-0 on the road this season.
The Ice will try to salvage a three-game road trip tonight in Swift Current when they face the Broncos at 7 p.m. While three games in three nights may seem like a challenging task, McGill insists it is no excuse for his team’s performance this week, or early on in the 2014-15 WHL season.
“We need to learn to be competitive as individuals, but you need all 18 skaters to be competitive at the same time,” McGill said. “Really what it boils down to, is we’ve got to try to get everybody competitive and going in the right direction so when one line or one group of five people gain momentum, the next group out there continues with it and doesn’t give it up.”
Notes: D Rinat Valiev missed his seventh game due to a lower-body injury…F Jon Martin missed his second game with an upper-body injury and won’t be ready go to for tonight’s tilt with the Broncos…F Vince Loschiavo missed his first game with an upper-body injury…F Luke Philp’s third-period tally snapped of shutout streak of nearly 230 minutes for Warriors G Zach Sawchenkow, who was named CHL Goalie of the Week after blanking the Red Deer Rebels (3-0, Oct. 2) and Tri-City Americans (5-0, Oct. 4)…