Kootenay Ice face off against the Prince George Cougars in a pair of weekend tilts at the Comminco Arena on Saturday and Sunday. Jim Bailey photo.

BCMML Kootenay Ice split with Rockets, refuel for Cougars this weekend

The Major Midget Kootenay Ice defeated the Kelowna Rockets 3-2 Sunday to earn two big road points.

For the second weekend in a row the BC Major Midget League’s Kootenay Ice bounced back to earn a split with the league’s top contenders.

After earning a split with a dramatic 5-4 victory over the league-leading Valley West Hawks on Oct. 22, the Ice went into Kelowna and duplicated it this weekend. Kootenay fell in the first match 3-0 but clawed their way back in Game 2 Sunday to defeat the Rockets 3-2 and earn two points on the road.

“Our last four games we’ve played really, really well,” said Ice coach Kris Boyce. “It just proved to our team that we can play with anyone in this league and that’s kind of what we really needed to do.”

The Ice fell behind 2-0 in the first period on Sunday, but Fruitvale’s Jaxen Waterstreet sniped his first of the season on a great individual effort to pull Kootenay to within one late in the period. After a scoreless middle frame and the Rockets leading on the shot-clock 22-18, the Ice mounted their comeback.

A power-play goal from Booker Daniels tied it with assists to Simon Nemethy and Brett Walchuk at 14:07 of the third.

The Ice continued to battle and Caleb Goncalves wired a setup from Ryan Bennett and Martin Ingram past the Kelowna goalie for a 3-2 lead with 7:40 to play.

The Rockets pressed hard for the equalizer and a Kootenay penalty with four minutes remaining gave Kelowna ample opportunity. But Kootenay goalie Jake Kemp came up big time and again, and the Ice killed the penalty and the final 93 seconds with the Rockets goalie on the bench for an extra man to earn a huge ‘W’.

With Ice goalie Xavier Cannon called up by the WHL’s Everett Silvertips on the weekend, Kemp played in both games for Kootenay and was outstanding.

“You have a veteran goalie back there who can make those huge saves for your team, it gives you a lot of confidence.”

In Saturday’s match, the Rockets held a 1-0 lead for two periods, but the Ice couldn’t capitalize and the Rockets netted two more in the third to ice the match 3-0.

“Looking back at the two games, if we could have scored in the first game we could have come out of there with two points,” said Boyce. “But two games you come back in the third period and you win two of those games, it shows a lot of character, and it shows the guys anything can happen in those games as long as you keep pressing the issue, you can score goals late.”

Kootenay hosts the BCMML defending champion Prince George Cougars this weekend. The 9-2-1-0 Cougars are a point up on the Valley West Hawks for first place, but the Hawks have two games in hand. Prince George is led by former Ice forward Hunter Floris who is third in league scoring with 13 goals and 19 points, followed by teammate Mason Richey with eight goals and 18 points.

“We play Caribou next, and we have to go in with the mindset that we can steal a couple games from them as well, and really set ourselves up for success,” said Boyce. “They are always strong in this league, and we have to prepare for them. If we’re going to play our game it’s going to be more physical than they are going to want. If we do that and come in with the effort that we had in the last four games, we’ll beat those guys too.”

The 4-5-0-1 Kootenay Ice are in eighth place but also have two games in hand on the Cougars. Game 1 goes Saturday at 4 p.m. at the Cominco Arena and at 9:45 a.m. on Sunday.

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