Another split wasn’t exactly what Kootenay Ice head coach Kris Boyce was hoping for heading into the holiday break, yet he was more than satisfied with the team’s effort at this stage of the BC Major Midget League season.
The Ice skated to a 3-2 overtime victory over the Vancouver NE Chiefs on Saturday at the Cominco Arena, but couldn’t repeat the ‘w’, falling by the same score to the Chiefs on Sunday.
“It’s tough, those Vancouver teams they work so hard when they come here,” said Ice head coach Kris Boyce. “It would have been nice to have the two wins this weekend and get a winning streak going.”
Following a huge 5-4 victory over the BCMML leading Vancouver NW Hawks the previous Sunday, the Ice made it two in a row on Saturday thanks to an overtime winning goal from Kootenay defenceman Quaid Anderson.
After Vancouver tied it late in the third, the Kootenay team wasted little time in the 4-on-4 overtime period, as Anderson fired a Simon Nemethy and Adam Pipe setup past Chiefs goalie Logan Terness just 35 seconds into the extra period for the Ice’s eighth win of the season.
“Our game is turning right around, and we’re playing really well right now,” said Boyce. “We were taking it to them pretty good the whole game.”
The Ice fell behind 1-0 at 12:49 of the opening frame when Jihwan Kim beat Kootenay goalie Xavier Cannon. But Vanderhoof native Daniel Booker heralded his return to the Kootenay team by scoring his seventh of the season at 2:26 of the first period to tie it and Anderson, a Cranbrook product, made it 2-1 with 1:41 remaining in the second period.
However, a holding penalty to Nemethy with just over five minutes to play gave the Chiefs the opportunity they were looking for, and Jack Steffens capitalized beating Cannon to tie it and force the extra frame with 4:15 left on the clock.
“I have to give our guys a lot of credit,” said Boyce. “After that goal we took it to them the last four minutes of the game, and then won it like 40 seconds into overtime.”
On Sunday, the Chiefs jumped out to a 3-0 lead on goals by Thomas Vela, Cody Hough, and Ryan Suzukovich, before Fruitvale native Kody Stewart replied for the Ice. The Kootenay defenceman found himself all alone on a breakaway and after his initial shot was stopped by goalie Michael Harroch, Stewart lifted in the rebound for his first tally of the season with 8:25 to play in the second period.
Harroch then shut the door, making several big stops including saves on two breakaway chances where the Chiefs netminder robbed the Kootenay attacker on an attempted deke, followed by a stellar glove save off a rocket from the hash marks.
Kootenay defenceman Jesse Ihas finally beat Harroch, scoring with just 10 seconds remaining for the 3-2 final.
“You get a couple of those bounces that go in the back of their net, and the game totally changes, but you have to give it to their goalie, he played excellent today,” added Boyce.
Following the game, seven players rushed to the KIJHL Beaver Valley vs Castlegar afternoon match at the B.V. Arena to suit up as affiliate players. Nemethy, Stewart, Brett Walchuk, and Anderson played for the Nitehawks while Ihas, Ryan Bennett, and Mason McLeod laced up the skates with the Rebels, who defeated the Hawks 4-3.
The experience is a mutual benefit to both teams, giving the Ice players a taste of things to come, and the Hawks much needed relief from a recent spate of injuries. Coincidentally, three of the injured Hawks are former Ice players Connor Seib, Tommy McConnachie, and Morgan Peace.
“The kids they don’t want to pass up opportunities to play at higher levels so when they get asked to play, they just suck it up,” added Boyce. “They’re in such good shape anyways and you can tell … they fit right in when playing Junior B.”
The victory put the 8-14-0-2 Ice into a tie for the eighth and final playoff spot with the North Island Silvertips. With 18 games to go and a favourable schedule in the new year, the Ice are in a good position for another BCMML playoff berth.
“I told the guys we play 18 games after Christmas and we need to win eight or nine of them to make playoffs. So that’s our goal to go 50/50, and if we can do that we’ll be sitting fine.”
Kootenay returns to the ice Jan. 12-13 for the BCMML Showcase at the Capital News Centre in Kelowna, where they are scheduled to play two exhibition matches against the Everett Silvertips on Jan. 12 at 3:15 p.m. and Jan. 13 at 8:15 a.m.
Their next home games go on Jan. 20-21 when they host the Greater Vancouver Canadians.