Tired of words, the Kootenay Ice let their performance speak for itself this weekend, claiming a pair of victories on the back end of a three-game road trip through the Pacific Northwest.
After a 5-2 defeat at the hands of the Portland Winterhawks (14-12-0-3) Friday afternoon, the Ice bounced back in a 5-2 triumph over the Seattle Thunderbirds (11-12-2-2) Saturday. Perhaps the most noteworthy victory came Sunday night, as the Ice rallied from a 3-0 deficit in the third period to edge the U.S. Division-leading Everett Silvertips (16-5-3-1) in overtime by a final margin of 4-3.
“I was real happy with our character tonight, coming back in one of the toughest buildings, not only in this Western Conference, but in the league,” said Kootenay Ice head coach Ryan McGill over the phone Sunday night. “After a three-goal deficit, I thought our guys did a great job in the third period of creating energy and really rallying with each other.”
Including a 7-3 win over the Moose Jaw Warriors Nov. 23, it’s the second time in seven days the Ice have erased a multi-goal deficit to come from behind in the third period. Against the Warriors, the Ice trailed 3-1 on home ice after 40 minutes.
“We haven’t worried about the score,” McGill said of his club’s recent third-period pushes. “We’ve just tried to play and generate some chances and generate some offense and generate some momentum. I think we’ve done a good job of getting the right people on the ice when we have created momentum and they’ve kept the momentum. Usually when that happens, the other team cracks and that’s what happened tonight [against Everett].”
After a scoreless first period, the Silvertips cruised to a 3-0 lead in the second period. Russian star and Montreal Canadiens prospect Nikita Scherbak opened the scoring before Patrick Bajkov and Carson Stadnyk padded the lead.
Not wanting to be shown up by a fellow Habs prospect, 20-year-old Tim Bozon got the visitors on the board 1:35 into the third period with his ninth goal of the campaign, sparking a three-goal run by the Ice to force overtime.
Defenceman Rinat Valiev scored a power-play goal four minutes later and Tanner Faith knotted things up with a little more than six minutes on the clock.
Faith’s game-tying goal was not only his first of the season, but also his first since March 2, 2013, when he found twine against the Medicine Hat Tigers.
After Valiev and Faith sparked the third-period comeback, fellow blueliner Tyler King ended things with a shot that Silvertips goaltender Carter Hart eventually knocked into his own net.
“The overtime goal was a lucky goal, but it is what it is,” McGill said. “We worked for that goal, as lucky as it was.”
With Valiev’s power-play tally Sunday evening, the Ice went a combined 5-for-12 (41.7 per cent) on the man advantage over the weekend.
The Ice power play went 2-for-5 in Seattle as Bozon and captain Sam Reinhart both found the back of the net on the man advantage.
In Friday’s 5-2 loss at Portland, both Kootenay markers came on the man advantage, which went 2-for-6 against the Winterhawks. Once again, Bozon and Reinhart were the culprits.
“When you put highly-skilled players in the right positions and give them a little bit of structure, we have many options on our power play,” McGill said. “When you’re not predictable on your power play, it really puts the other team back on its heels.”
With its recent success, the Ice power play has vaulted into eighth in the league (20-for-99, 20.2 per cent).
Including three consecutive starts this weekend, goaltender Wyatt Hoflin has been given the go in 16 consecutive contests, dating back to Oct. 24 in a 9-2 loss against the Calgary Hitmen. The 19-year-old native of Spruce Grove, Alta., turned aside a combined total of 57 shots this weekend. The effort improved Hoflin’s season mark to 13-12-0-0.
With the two victories, the Ice improved their road record to 5-10-0-0. Despite the seemingly dire road registry, Kootenay is 4-1-0-0 away from Western Financial Place since Nov. 15.
Notes: D Tanner Faith returned to the lineup Friday night, his first action in the month of November after missing nine games with an upper-body injury…D Dylan Overdyk (concussion) missed his fifth consecutive game. Overdyk was injured Nov. 21 against Lethbridge and is out indefinitely…Next action for the Ice comes Friday, Dec. 5 when the Spokane Chiefs (14-8-3-0) visit Western Financial Place…Friday afternoon, D Rinat Valiev was named to the preliminary roster for Team Russia’s entry to the 2015 IIHF World Junior Championship. A total of 38 players were named to the roster, including four goaltenders, 14 defencemen and 20 forwards. D Ivan Provorov (Brandon) was the only other WHL player named to the roster. F Nikita Scherbak (Everett) was left off the squad…