The return of Simon Nemethy made an impact on the Kootenay Ice lineup on the weekend, as the BC Major Midget League team defeated the first-place Cariboo Cougars 5-3 in Prince George on Sunday.
Nemethy counted four points in the victory over the Cougars, in a great result for an Ice team whose recent struggles has seen them go winless, 0-4-0-2, in league play in the new year, and drop to 10th place in the BCMML standings. Those struggles, however, coincided with the loss of the Ice’s leading scorer, who missed more than a month due to injury, but made an immediate impression on his return to action this weekend.
After falling 5-1 to the Cariboo in their opening match Saturday, the Ice bounced back. Nemethy, a Vanderhoof product, scored twice for the Ice including the winning goal with 10:23 to play in the third period to hand the 2017 champion Cougars just their sixth loss of the season.
Cariboo’s Lane Goodwin opened the scoring, giving the home team a 1-0 lead at 14:30 of the first period, but Kootenay replied 12 seconds later on the power play when Brett Walchuk blasted a Nemethy pass by goalie Ryan Buchan to tie it.
Ice forward Adam Pipe then notched his 10th goal of the season on a set up from Keenan Crossman and Erik Delaire at 8:54 to take the lead for good. Nemethy put the Ice up 3-1 at 13:18 of the second period, when he finished a nice passing play with Mason McLeod and Booker Daniel.
Kootenay goaltender Xavier Cannon came up big on a number of occasions, and after Nemethy made it 4-1, a frustrated Cougar player took an unsportsmanlike penalty to set up Daniel’s team-leading 11th tally of the season, when he converted a pass from Nemethy and McLeod for a 5-1 lead at 9:17.
Two late goals by former Ice player Hunter Floris brought the Cariboo to within two, in the Ice’s first win over the Cougars this season.
Nemethy’s four-point night (2G, 2A) gives the Ice’s top point-getter 10 goals and 23 points in 26 games, while Daniel scored once and added two helpers, and McLeod had three assists.
On Saturday, the Cougars skated to a 4-0 lead through two periods on a pair of goals from Tanner Bahm, and singles from Max Arnold and Brandon Dent. Nemethy finished a Daniel and McLeod set up at 18:12 of the third to get the Ice on the board, but that was as close as Kootenay would come, as Paul Hauk scored into an empty net for the 5-1 victory.
The loss for the Cougars allowed the Valley West Hawks to pull even at the top of the standings with 53 points, although the Hawks have two games in hand.
Sunday’s win lifted the 9-19-0-4 Kootenay into a tie for ninth spot with the North Island Silvertips, and within five points of the Thompson Blazers and Vancouver NE Chiefs for the eighth and final playoff spot. The Ice return home this weekend for a two-game set against the 5-26-3-0 South Island Royals, currently mired in 11th and last place in the BCMML.
The puck drop for the Kootenay versus the Royals games go at 4 p.m. Saturday and 9:45 a.m. Sunday at the Cominco Arena.