Hockey fans in Invermere got a treat when the Kootenay Ice and Calgary Hitmen went to overtime at the Eddie Mountain Memorial Arena during preseason action on Friday night.
However, Hitmen defenceman Dom Schmiemann ended the affair at 5-4 just over two minutes into the extra period, ending an Ice comeback that saw the Kootenay squad tie the game in the dying minutes of regulation.
Despite two quick goals from the Hitmen in the opening frame from Luke Coleman and Jake Kryski, the Ice woke up in the middle frame, scoring three unanswered markers.
Kootenay head coach James Patrick said his team struggled in the first period against a bigger veteran-laden lineup, but found its footing afterwards.
“I liked the last two periods; I thought we were engaged, it was exciting hockey,” said Patrick. “It was back-and-forth and, obviously, it’s disappointing to lose — every game you’re playing you want to win — but, for the most part, I liked the effort and the compete, and that a number of guys got to experience a tough game.”
Brad Ginnell led the offensive pushback, followed by Dallas Hines and Peyton Krebs to close out the period with a one goal lead.
Kryski tallied his second of the game early in the final period to tie up the affair, while Layne Toder put the Hitmen ahead a few minutes later.
With Ice goaltender Duncan McGovern on the bench for an extra attacker, Kaeden Taphorn found the equalizer with just under a minute and a half left in the game to force the overtime period.
“I think it gives me a bit more confidence going to the regular season here next week,” said Taphorn, “so hopefully the team can take — obviously we wanted to win, but take a little momentum here for tomorrow and hopefully get the win.”
McGovern made 24 saves in the crease for the Ice, while Matthew Armitage and Jack McNaughton split goaltending duties for the Hitmen, collectively making 23 saves.
The Ice wrap up the exhibition season with their final game in Calgary on Saturday night ahead of the WHL regular season.
Patrick says the roster is still far from set and that players are still battling for spots heading into the regular season.
“I know for some teams, when you get to the last game, you want to play your opening day roster,” Patrick said. “We won’t be doing that. We’re still trying to work things out on what it’s going to be and who is going to be here and we still have positions up for grabs. I wanted to see whoever’s in, go out and earn your spot, earn your ice time and compete as hard as you can.”
The Ice played in front of a full barn at the Eddie Mountain Memorial Arena, which is home to the Columbia Valley Rockies of the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League KIJHL). Scratches from the Ice roster met with local minor hockey kids and laced up their skates to run some drills with them before the game.
Tanya Roe, a volunteer with Invermere Minor Hockey, said having a major-junior game at the local arena means a lot for the young kids who want to pursue their hockey dreams.
“It’s huge,” said Roe. “This is big; this is where all these kids want to be, is in the WHL, the NHL, that’s what they look at.”
For Taphorn, it served as a chance to connect with regional fans outside the Cranbrook and Kimberley area.
“I thought it was great,” he said. “The crowd looked packed up there, so it was good to play in front of people who maybe don’t get the chance to come to Cranbrook.”