If there’s one thing you can say about the WHL’s new three-on-three overtime format, it’s that it provides no shortage of scoring opportunities.
Unfortunately for the Kootenay Ice, it was the Brandon Wheat Kings capitalizing in the extra frame Friday night, as veteran forward John Quenneville skated in alone and beat Ice goaltender Wyatt Hoflin to claim the bonus point at Western Financial Place.
“Compared to the last time we played these guys, we’re a totally different team and we battled all night,” said Ice winger Zak Zborosky after Friday’s loss. “We played these guys hard and, yeah, it would have been nice to get the win, but getting the one point is good.”
Zborosky was on the case once again Friday night, putting the first goal on the board for the home team before setting up the game-tying marker late in regulation.
“We had our chances to win it in overtime,” said Luke Pierce, head coach of the Kootenay Ice, Friday night. “Unfortunately we didn’t.
“We talked about wanting to push the pace more and I think that’s a good approach — go and attack. You’ve got to play to win. If you sit back and you’re afraid to lose the game, it’s going to hurt you. I thought we did a good job. We went after it tonight. We out chanced them in overtime, they just capitalized on theirs.”
After falling behind 2-1 late in the third period as Nolan Patrick put the visitors up 2-1 with a power-play goal, Zborosky made a nice move in tight before slipping a beautiful feed to captain Luke Philp who roofed one up on over Wheat Kings goaltender Logan Thompson to tie the game 2-2 with only 1:39 on the clock, eventually forcing overtime.
“Playing with Luke is awesome,” Zborosky said of his captain. “The guy is a competitor. He plays hard every night and he’s very skillful. Developing that chemistry through practice and playing so much time together, we’ve been clicking lately.”
After Wheat Kings forwards Nolan Patrick and Jayce Hawryluk were sent to the sin bin one after the other late in the second period — resulting in a 5-on-3 power-play opportunity for the Ice — Philp lugged the puck around the offensive zone before rallying at the point and firing towards Thompson.
Philp’s shot didn’t make it all the way through the crowd, but Zborosky was there to snatch the loose puck and fire it past an unsuspecting Thompson to knot the game 1-1 heading into the second intermission.
“It helps with a couple 5-on-3s in there, but sometimes those are more difficult because of how tight [the opposition] kills it,” Pierce said. “Our first power play, we couldn’t even get zone entry, but we made some adjustments and then we were able to make it work. I think, again, it’s the mental side — first power play doesn’t go well, lots of times your power play is done for the night because guys are frustrated and they overthink it.
“I think we’re getting a lot stronger that way. It takes some time and hopefully we can continue to build in the right way.”
Wheat Kings left wing Tyler Coulter opened the scoring midway through the first period, taking a quick pass at the side of the net and depositing it past a helpless Hoflin for his first goal of the season.
Coulter’s tally came shortly after Ice right wing Austin Wellsby found himself in alone on Thompson. Wellsby made a nifty inside-out move to get Thompson down, but couldn’t quite lift the backhand shot over the outstretched glove of the Wheaties puck-stopper.
For the Wheat Kings, Thompson made 20 saves to collect his fourth victory of the season.
At the other end of the rink, Hoflin was good on 29 of 32 shots.
It’s a quick turnaround for the Kootenay Ice (3-11-2-0) as they host the Seattle Thunderbirds (8-2-1-0) — who were in the crowd Friday — at 2 p.m. Saturday afternoon.
The rare early afternoon start presents some challenges following a Friday night game.
“It’s tough — they’re sitting here waiting for us tonight,” Pierce said. “We’ve got to find a way and dig deep. We’re going to need contributions from deeper parts of our lineup. We can’t rely on guys that played 23 minutes tonight to carry us through again tomorrow.
“It’s a good test for us and it’s another really good hockey club. But you want to try to find ways to continue on the momentum. I don’t want us focusing on the scoreboard as much as on understanding the game plan and executing the game plan.”
Daily Townsman Three Stars:1) G Wyatt Hoflin, Kootenay Ice (29 saves)2) F Zak Zborosky, Kootenay Ice (1G, 1A)3) F Nolan Patrick, Brandon Wheat Kings (1G)
Notes: Ice RW Max Patterson returned to the lineup after missing seven games with an upper-body injury… The Ice went with D Cale Fleury (upper body, day to day), D Tyler King (knee, indefinite), RW Jaedon Descheneau (upper body, indefinite) and D Dallas Hines Friday night… The Wheat Kings were without C Stelio Mattheos (U17 Challenge), LW Ty Lewis (upper body), LW Braylon Shmyr and C Tim McGauley (upper body)… Announced attendance in Cranbrook on Friday was 1,873…