The Major Midget Kootenay Ice impressed junior and college scouts attending the BC Major Midget League Showcase in Richmond on the weekend by sweeping their two-game series against the Okanagan Rockets.
Kootenay rocked the Rockets 5-1 on Saturday, then pulled out a thrilling 5-4 overtime victory against the third-place Okanagan at the Richmond Oval on Sunday for a record-setting weekend for the Ice.
“To go into Vancouver and play Okanagan and beat them two straight … that’s a huge confidence booster for the guys,” said Ice head coach Kris Boyce. “We tied the Kootenay Ice record (for most wins) on Saturday with the 11th win, then beat it on Sunday with the 12th win, so it was a pretty huge weekend.”
The Ice trailed the Rockets 3-2 heading into the third period, but two quick goals put Kootenay up 4-3 for a lead they clung to until the final 18 seconds. With their goalie pulled and, despite being down a man due to a major penalty, the Rockets tied the game to force overtime.
“We had a power play, and they pulled their goalie, but we were playing too much defence and they ended up popping one in front of the net.”
The Ice started the OT with about 90 seconds left on the powerplay, and Boyce didn’t pull any punches. He put out his top point-getters in Christian Macasso and Aiden Jenner with D. J. Horne and Mathew Cooper on the point, and 30 seconds later the move paid off. Macasso scored his seventh of the season, and second OT winner as the Kootenay team celebrated.
“It all happened so fast,” said Macasso. “It was the first shift of the overtime, and it was quick, D-to-D right up the ice, and I got caught in a lucky position and I got the puck and thankfully put it in the back of the net.”
Horne, Cooper, and Wilson Reid netted the other Kootenay goals while Macasso scored twice for the Ice, while the goaltending tandem of Jaysen McLean and Jake Kemp were outstanding in net, each earning a win.
“It was really intense,” said Macasso. “It kept going back-and-forth, and we kept coming from behind, and just edged them out, and then they scored with seconds left and forced overtime, but we came through in the end.”
In Saturday’s match, Cooper’s goal at 8:49 of the second period on a setup from Jaxson Waterstreet and Simon Nemethy proved to be the winner as the Ice skated to a 5-1 victory over the Rockets.
Okanagan came out strong in the opening period but a goal by Castlegar’s Aiden Jenner gave the Ice a 1-0 lead at 15:45 and changed the slope of the ice to the Kootenay’s favour.
“The first five minutes of the game, the Okanagan really took it to us,” said Boyce. “You’re on the bench and you tell the guys, ‘If we start skating, and if we play our game, we are going to beat them,’ and the next thing you know we have a couple good shifts and we pot a goal early … and everything from there, just a trickle effect, we dominated them the rest of the game.”
The Rockets tied the game at 12:49 on a tally from Cody Schiavon, but Cooper’s goal put the Ice up 2-1, and 33 seconds later Tommy McConnachie converted a pass from Morgan Peace for a 3-1 lead. Jenner scored with just four seconds remaining in the middle frame for his second of the night from Macasso and Ethan Jang. The Castlegar native was then awarded the hat trick with an empty-net goal at 3:38 of the third; unfortunately for d-man Quaid Anderson, who actually scored what would have been his first goal of the season, but was awarded to Jenner by mistake.
“We knew it was going to be a tough game so we prepared ourselves, and we knew we could do it,” said Macasso. “They lost a couple guys and they’ve been beaten by Thompson so we knew it was possible. But once we started getting into it, we played a really great game, everyone was going, and we caught them off guard I think.”
The Ice have a weekend off and return to action on Feb. 4 and 5 when they host the North Island Silvertips at the Cominco Arena. While this weekend’s break may interrupt the team’s momentum, coach Boyce says it gives his student-athletes more time to prepare for the semester’s final exams at J. L. Crowe next week.
“The guys are gearing up for finals so just the focus of them having school first is better than having games on the weekend … But those games (against North Island) are pretty crucial for us. We put the spread on them now, we’re 10 points up on North Island, but we’re only five back of the Giants so that’s who we’re chasing and who we want to catch to pull into seventh.”