The Kootenay Ice missed out on an opportunity to collect four valuable points in the race for the WHL post-season this past weekend, dropping outings against the Moose Jaw Warriors and Saskatoon Blades.
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.
“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.
The Warriors built a 4-0 lead before Hoflin was yanked and Hobbs entered the game in the third period.
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.
With Hobbs’ hometown Saskatoon Blades visiting Cranbrook Sunday night, the rookie puck-stopper didn’t get much help in his first-career WHL start.
Turnovers helped the Blades jump out to a 3-0 lead, with Wyatt Sloboshan, Josh Uhrich and Amil Krupic all cashing in.
“We weren’t ready to play,” Vetterl said Sunday. “They outworked us at the start of the game. They got on our ‘D,’ we made mistakes and they put it in the back of our net. That put us behind the eight ball.”
The Ice looked disinterested at times, but veteran forward Tim Bozon refused to let his team be shutout by the visitors.
The native of Valbonne, France, got his team on the board late in the first, before adding a power-play tally midway through the second period to make it 4-2.
Rookie Vince Loschiavo scored his fifth of the season to help the Ice claw within one before the second intermission.
“It’s obviously nice to contribute a little bit,” Loschiavo said Sunday. “But we’ve also got to start putting these wins together before the playoffs.”
As he’s done so many times before, Bozon took the game into his own hands late in the third period, snapping a shot past the glove of Blades goaltender Brock Hamm to tie things 4-4 with 54 seconds remaining in regulation.
Bozon was unavailable following the game, as he was left without a voice, having played Sunday night through illness.
Blades forward Sam McKechnie ended any hopes of an Ice victory when he deposited a two-on-one feed past Hobbs 24 seconds into overtime.
Despite the overtime loss, the Ice did manage to grab one point, building a two-point cushion on the Edmonton Oil Kings for the first wild-card position in the WHL’s Eastern Conference.
“We came out, showed some heart in the second and third [periods],” Vetterl said Sunday. “I would say we outworked them in the second and third [periods] and scored some goals, showed some heart at the end, especially scoring with a minute left.
“Getting a point out of this is important, but obviously, in the end, we would have liked two points.”
The Kootenay Ice return to action Tuesday night when they travel to Lethbridge to face the Hurricanes.
Video highlights: Moose Jaw Warriors 5 at Kootenay Ice 1 (Friday, Feb. 13):
Video highlights: Saskatoon Blades 5 at Kootenay Ice 4 (OT) (Sunday, Feb. 15):