A pair of goals by Trail native Keenan Crossman helped the Major Midget Kootenay Ice earn a split with the Vancouver Northwest Giants at the Cominco Arena on the weekend.
Crossman scored twice for the Ice on Saturday, including what proved to be the winning goal at 17:34 of the third period, and Kootenay received solid goaltending from Jaysen MacLean to backstop the Ice to a 4-1 victory, before falling to the Giants 7-3 on Sunday.
“I think we battled pretty hard,” said Ice assistant coach Thomas Abenante. “Saturday we came out and we got out to a 1-0 lead and got the insurance marker and Jaysen our goalie really stood on his head for the last 20 minutes there.”
Crossman gave the Ice a 2-0 lead just over two minutes into the final frame, finishing off a nice play from Tommy McConnachie and Niall Lawrie. The Giants’ Lucas Patton pulled his team to within one at 11:41 of the third, but MacLean shut the door after that, and Crossman and Ethan Jang iced the game for Kootenay with two goals in the final minute and 17 seconds.
“They pushed the pace pretty hard, and we knew that was going to come,” said Abenante. “I think we surprised them a bit for the first two periods, but we knew we could play with a team like that.”
The Kootenay Ice also added its third Whitehorse minor hockey product to the team last week with Matthew Cooper joining Yukon teammates Niall Lawrie and Johnny Elias.
“He (Cooper) was really impressive, he played like he’s been with the team since the beginning,” said Abenante. “He’s a great kid, and he’s going to be one of our top defenceman I think. He’s a 17-year-old, so he has a lot of experience, he’s a good puck mover and just plays the position really well.”
The Giants got off to a quick start in Sunday’s game, jumping out to a 3-0 lead in the first period with two goals from Liam Kindree, and a single by Hudson Schandor, and made it 4-0 just 90 seconds into the second period on a wrister five-hole by Cole Moberg.
“We’ve had a little trouble starting out games here recently, and spotting teams 3-0 leads … but I think we showed a lot of character in battling back.”
Six minutes into the middle frame, Cooper drove wide drawing the defenceman and goalie before swinging a pass out front to a trailing McConnachie for the tap in. But the Giants restored the four-goal lead on the power play before the end of the middle frame with Moberg beating Jake Kemp, who relieved MacLean in net, with a blast from the point.
The Ice came out strong in the third, and Terrell Clairicoates beat Donovan Buskey on a breakaway going low stick-side to make it 5-2 early in the final frame. Six minutes later, D.J. Horne broke in all alone, deked Buskey and put the backhand over the net, however, the puck took a big Kootenay bounce off the glass and dropped in front of the Giants’ goalie for Aiden Jenner to bang in to make it 5-3.
Buskey, the son of Greater Trail native Brad Buskey and a third-round pick of the Spokane Chiefs in the 2015 WHL Bantam Draft, wouldn’t be beaten again, and the Giants scored two more from Matteo Pecchia and Jack Graham for the 7-3 final.
“They have a really good power play, and we took a couple of undisciplined penalties and they made us pay,” said Abenante.
The Ice’s record goes to 3-5-0 good for seventh place in the 11-team league, and despite the loss, Abenante likes the team’s progress.
“I think we’re turning some heads in the league. I don’t think too many teams outside our organization gave us that kind of credit or expected us to get that many wins this quick. We have a great group of kids in there, we lose a game and we just bounce back.”
The Ice will look to rebound this weekend when they host the Okanagan Rockets at 4 p.m. on Saturday and 9:45 a.m. on Sunday at the Cominco Arena.
The Female Midget AAA Kootenay Wild also won its first game of the season with a 5-1 victory over the Fraser Valley Rush on Friday, followed by a 1-1 tie on Saturday, before falling 4-0 on Sunday.
Injuries took their toll on the Wild as the weekend progressed, but the team has a week off to recover before travelling to Campbell River to play the Vancouver Island Seals Oct. 28.