BC major midget Kootenay Ice forwards Adam Pipe and Simon Nemethy each scored twice in a 5-4 win to cap off a weekend sweep of the South Island Royals at the Cominco Arena on Sunday.
Ice netminder Jake Kemp shut out the Royals 4-0 on Saturday, and the team hung on for the one-goal victory Sunday to stay in playoff contention. Kootenay currently sits in ninth place, just one point back of the Vancouver NE Chiefs for the eighth and final playoff spot in the BC Major Midget League (BCMML).
“They came out good on Saturday, and followed that up and kind of carried the momentum through, so it’s nice to see that,” said Ice assistant coach Paul Mailey. “The guys have some confidence right now, a short lineup, but still playing well and playing together so it’s good to see.”
The home team iced an abbreviated roster of just 13 skaters, with Daniel Booker, Caleb Concalves, and Brett Walchuk out of the lineup, the Ice rotated three defencemen through a forward line to help out offensively.
Kootenay forward Simon Nemethy’s second goal of the game and 14th of the season proved to be the winner in Sunday’s match. The Vanderhoof native went end-to-end, breaking down the left side and wiring a shot past South Island goalie Connor Svienson to give the Ice a 5-3 lead with 6:23 remaining in the third period.
“I’m starting to hit the net a lot more in 2018 so that’s nice,” said Nemethy. “I saw open ice, and I skated, then saw a good shot, and just put it in the net.”
The win was Kootenay’s first sweep of the season, and its third straight victory after defeating the Cariboo Cougars in Prince George the previous week.
“It (the wins) was crucial,” said Nemethy. “If we didn’t win these games, the playoff run would probably be down the drain, so we came in knowing we had to win these games and we did.”
Nemethy was out six weeks with injury prior to his return against the Cougars in P.G., a stone’s throw from Nemethy’s hometown of Vanderhoof. He celebrated his 2018 debut in front of friends and family with a four-point game in the 5-3 Ice victory.
“Personally, for myself it was great,” said Nemethy. “Coming off that break, I wanted to come back strong, and it’s gone well so far. The teammates have been there for me the whole time and helped me out, so it’s been good.”
The 17-year-old forward continued his strong play this weekend scoring four goals and an assist for a team-leading 28 points.
“Having him back in the lineup is huge for us,” said Mailey. “He’s picked up right where he left off before his injury and it’s nice to have him back.”
Kootenay came out strong in the first period with Cranbrook native Ryan Bennett opening the scoring at 7:59 with assists to Pipe and Nemethy. Three minutes later Pipe put the Ice up 2-0 converting a setup from Nathan Ingram and Erik Delaire.
With time winding down in the period, Bennett executed a determined forecheck, crushing the Royals defender into the boards, and freeing up the puck for Nemethy, who snuck it by Svienson from a bad angle with 47 seconds left.
South Island finally got on the board at 15:44 of the second period when a knuckle ball from the high slot beat Ice goalie Xavier Cannon to cut the lead to 3-1. However, Pipe notched his second goal of the game after a Jesse Ihas shot squeaked through the goalie’s legs, and Pipe helped it the rest of the way for his 13th tally and 24th point of the season to go up 4-1.
But South Island wouldn’t go quietly as Ethan Brandwood beat the Ice goalie under the arm with 7:55 to play in the middle frame, and after Cannon stopped a Nathan Hauser breakaway, Connor Eddy corralled the rebound and beat the Ice goalie, cutting the lead to one at 4:27.
“They may have (let up a little bit), but one of the things we’re focusing on now, is that finally we’re at that point where we’re stringing some wins together and that mentality of playing hard no matter what the score is,” said Mailey.
After Nemethy put the Ice up 5-3, the Royals pressed in the final minute. With the goalie on the bench for the extra attacker, Brandwood took a quick cross-ice pass and fired a shot from the hash mark that Cannon stopped, but Tyler Stinchcombe slammed home the rebound to make it 5-4 with 21 seconds left on the clock.
The Royals generated another stellar scoring opportunity in their final rush, but Cannon calmly turned it aside, and the Ice celebrated the sweep.
In Saturday’s game, Nemethy scored twice and Delaire had a goal and an assist in Kemp’s first shut out of the season.
Delaire opened the scoring at 7:57 converting a setup from Pipe and Keenan Crossman. The score remained 1-0 through two periods, before Nemethy scored at 13:23 and Pipe made it 3-0 less than two minutes later on helpers from Delaire and Ihas.
Nemethy completed the scoring finishing a passing play with Mason McLeod and Nathan Ingram for the 4-0 final with 91 seconds remaining.
The Ice next faces the North Island Silvertips in an important weekend series at the Cominco Arena. Kootenay can catch and surpass the Chiefs with a pair of wins combined with two Chiefs losses to the league-leading Valley West Hawks, whom they face this weekend in Langley.
The ‘Tips trail the Ice by just two points, and are looking for a strong finish of their own with six games remaining.
“It’ll be huge,” said Mailey. “We were tied with them before this weekend, so playing for that last playoff spot will be a big weekend.”
The puck drop for the Ice and Silvertips goes at 4 p.m. on Saturday and at 9:45 a.m. on Sunday at the Cominco Arena.