Kootenay Ice forward Erik Delaire breaks in and wires a backhand by Vancouver NE Chiefs goalie on Sunday at the Beaver Valley Arena

Kootenay Ice forward Erik Delaire breaks in and wires a backhand by Vancouver NE Chiefs goalie on Sunday at the Beaver Valley Arena

Kootenay Ice gain split with Vancouver NE Chiefs

The Kootenay Ice knocked off one of the top BC Major Midget teams on Saturday to earn a split with the Vancouver NE Chiefs.

Knocking off the top teams in the BC Major Midget League is starting to become a habit for the J.L. Crowe High Performance Hockey Academy’s Kootenay Ice.

After splitting a pair of games with defending champion Valley Northwest Hawks a week ago, the Ice welcomed the third-place Vancouver Northeast Chiefs by dishing out a 5-2 drubbing on Saturday at the Beaver Valley Arena, before falling to the Chiefs on Sunday 6-2.

“The guys played pretty well,” said Ice head coach Kris Boyce. “We worked really hard and moved our feet (the first game). It was tied going into the third and we got a couple breaks and the next thing you know it’s 3-1.”

With the scored deadlocked at 1-1 heading into the final frame, Trail native Tommy McConnachie scored back-to-back goals including the winner at 9:40 of the third period to give the Ice a 3-1 lead

The win gives the Ice six victories on the season and surpasses the total number of wins from last year’s Ice team – a strong indication of the success the J. L. Crowe High Performance program has brought to the BCMM team since moving from Nelson.

Cranbrook skater Erik Delaire started the scoring at 13:14 of the first period converting a setup from Castlegar’s Wilson Reid and Terrell Clarricoates of Cranbrook.

The Chiefs’ Christian Buono tied it with 11:37 of the second period, to set up the dramatic five-goal third period. Trail defenceman Conner Seib put the Ice up 2-1 at 9:56, and just 16 seconds later McConnachie scored the winner on a setup from Ethan Jang and Morgan Peace.

Vancouver’s Ethan Leyh replied at 8:13 to draw the Chiefs within one, but two minutes later McConnachie’s second goal of the night and sixth of the season gave Kootenay a 4-2 lead. Trail’s Keenan Crossman iced it with an empty netter with 13 seconds to play.

The win also marked the return to the lineup for Morgan Peace, the Kootenay captain who has been out for 10 games with injury.

“Having a guy like that in the locker room is really good with this group of guys and they all look up to him,” said Boyce. “Having that leadership role coming back to the room even helps the guys calm down when those situations come up he’ll talk to them.”

On Sunday, the Chiefs came out hungry and fed off Ice turnovers, building a 3-0 first-period lead on two goals from Leyh, before the Ice’s brief comeback came up short.

“It’s kind of our Sunday woes,” said Boyce. “We spot them a 3-0 lead it seems like – and when you try to crawl back from that it’s hard.”

Kootenay got on the board at 11:23 of the second period when Jang forced a turnover in the Chiefs zone and Aiden Jenner tapped a quick pass to Christian Macasso who beat Vancouver goalie Kolby Matthews five hole to make it 3-1. However, less than two minutes later Liam Ryan restored the three-goal lead beating Jayson McLean on a scramble in front.

The Ice answered back with 3:30 to play in the middle frame, when Fruitvale defenceman Kody Stewart hit Erik Delaire flying down the left wing, and the Cranbrook product drove to the net and wired a backhand top shelf on Mathews to cut the lead in half at 4-2.

But that was as close as the Ice would get as the Chiefs added two more to stifle any chance of a comeback.

“We know after we beat those good teams, we know they are going to be better the next day,” said Boyce. “We’re trying to preach in the locker room that we have to outwork the other team – so when they show up to outwork us, we have to rise to the challenge and outwork them.”

The Ice face off against the 1-13-1-1 South Island Royals on Saturday and Sunday in Victoria in what will be a good opportunity for Kootenay to make up some ground in the BC Hockey Major Midget standings. The 6-10-0-0 Ice are in eighth place in the 11-team league and trail the seventh-place Vancouver Northwest Giants by six points, as the Giants get set to face-off against the league-leading Cariboo Cougars.

“They (the Royals) are below us in the standings so for us to go there and not get two wins would be a disappointment,” added Boyce. “For our mindset going into the weekend, we’re going there for two wins.”