The Score – Calgary 1 – Kootenay 2
What Happened – The Ice played perhaps the first one-goal game that Nathan Lieuwen wasn’t the guy doing all the winning. Strongest defensive effort of the season.
The Turning Point – Could just as easily be Montgomery’s game-winner but one could also argue the Trevor Cheek breakaway stop by Lieuwen. After that the Ice locked things down and the Hitmen had very few quality chances.
The Goals – In the second with the Ice unable to get the puck through the neutral zone – the sustained pressure enabled the Hitmen to ice their top unit against the Descheneau-Martin-Philp line, a turnover resulted the Ice taking a delayed penalty. There was no need as Sylvester skated into the zone and beat Lieuwen five-hole from 20 feet. 1-0 Hitmen… After trying to feed off the school-kid crazy crowd Jesse Ismond took the puck to the net 13 minutes into the second. The puck looked covered but Sam Reinhart charged the net and managed to poke it in. 1-1… Early in the third Joe Antilla started a rush that developed into a 2-on-1. Max carried the puck into the zone and fed Brock Montgomery who roofed his 20th of the season. 2-1 Ice.
The Chance – The Ice had their chances early in this one including a five-on-three less than two minutes in courtesy of Trevor Cheek dumping Elgin Pearce on a chance in the slot and Colin Bowman hitting the guy in the Canucks jersey just sitting down to watch the game with an errant clearing pass. The fan took it in the head but stayed in the game and didn’t spill his beer. The real guy paid to stop pucks in a Canucks jersey in Vancouver tonight didn’t do as well and was yanked after the Sabres went up 3-0.
The Spirit – Nine local schools and 653 kids. Kootenay Christian Academy, St. Marys and Gordon Terrace won $500 each. Maybe they can put it in the kitty for a new contract for the Teachers. The government doesn't seem to want to give up any.
The Zebras – Compared to the last few examples at the Rec Plex, this was a well-officiated game. I mention this for two reasons: 1. It was the biggest crowd of the season and arguably the biggest game of the season and 2. Because I had two season ticket holders tell me they don’t want to renew their tickets because of the officiating this season. There’s been some duds this season no doubt but to give up the game? Nah.
The Save – Up 2-1 halfway through the third and after controlling the play for almost a minute in the Hitmen end, Trevor Cheek sprung loose on a breakaway. Lieuwen matched the backhand deke with a great save. Just how good has the 20-year-old been for the Ice? With Saturday's 24 saves Lieuwen now has over 4000 WHL career saves. (4013, to be exact, with thanks to @WHLfacts on Twitter
In Yo Face – As they killed a second-period Jesse Ismond infraction for roughing, Eric Benoit attempted to spring McKinlay and Ismond – coming out of the box – on a two-man breakaway. Benoit’s pass hit him alright, in the face.
Max Reinhart – Tonight he played close to 30 minutes and was key on face-offs. By my tally hit 95%.
Monty – Hands up everyone who thought he’d hit 20 this season. Thought so, including me. The 19-year-old is really making strides as a more complete player.
The Crowd – 3708 – Largest of the season on School Spirit night. Not including playoffs, the Ice are up 300 per game this season over last at just a hair under 2800 average this season.
The Scratches - D Jeff Hubic, D Spencer Wand, F Drew Czwerwonka (knee - 3-5 weeks) and a shout-out to Ice GM Jeff Chynoweth who missed the game due to an appendectomy Friday. He's day-to-day. F Luke Philp, 16, drew into the line-up as his Canmore Eagles finished out of the AJHL Playoffs.
The Magic Number – 2 or three points. The Rebels won tonight but with the Ice win, 81 points will clinch a playoff spot for the 14th straight season.
The Match-up - If the playoffs started today it would be the Ice and Hitmen in the first round. Though the Hitmen would have home-ice, at 12-2 head-to-head over this season and last, you have like that match-up. Nathan Liewen's save percentage against the Hitmen? .949% - stopping 151 of 159 this season.
Rec Plex Three Stars
1. RW Brock Montgomery – Game-winner; heavy on the forecheck
2. C Cody Sylvester - Dangerous
3. D Tanner Muth – Entire D-Corps played best game in a while
What it means – This was a big one. The Ice improves to 35-22-4-4 and 78 points, three back of the Hitmen for 4th in the Eastern Conference. The Blades are three back as are the Pats, who won tonight. The Wheat Kings have the 8th spot. Essentially, the Ice control their own destiny. They play the Hitmen twice and the Tigers twice and hold a game in-hand on both. Win all five outright in regulation and 4th is a reasonable goal with 3rd not completely out of the question.
Up Next: The Ice hit the road for two, Tuesday in Swift Current and Wednesday in Medicine Hat.