The Warriors came out to play Tuesday night.
Unfortunately, for their sake, so did the Kootenay Ice.
Bailey Brkin stopped 28 shots and was the first star of the night as he led his squad to a 2-1 win over the Warriors in a low-scoring, defensive battle.
Brkin was quick to credit his teammates for their effort in holding the high-powered Warrior offence at bay.
“The guys made it easy on me tonight,” Brkin said. “Everything came from the outside, they let me see the puck, they tied up sticks and it was a great game by all of the guys.
“…It feels great, it helps confidence a lot and it just helps gets these boys to trust me because I’m new to the team here.”
Vince Loschiavo and Brett Davis lit the lamp for the Ice, while Tanner Jeannot responded for the Warriors. Moose Jaw goaltender Brody Willms made 31 stops in defeat.
“I’m really, really excited about how well the guys played,” said Ice head coach James Patrick. “I think they were rewarded for a great effort, playing the system, playing smart, I guess playing to our strengths and trying to counter their strengths; they’ve been the best team in the league so far this year.
“…A big effort from a lot of guys; a lot of guys contributed so real happy for them to be rewarded.”
That’s back-to-back wins for the Ice now, after a 5-3 win over the visiting Everett Silvertips on Saturday, which ended a four-game slide for the Kootenay squad.
Tuesday’s result is also notable because the Ice handed the Warriors only their second loss of the season, who had started off hot with five wins in a row.
“It was great, it was huge to get a win, especially against a top team like that,” said Loschiavo. “We just did the little things right, all four lines were going and each guy pitched in for that win. It was a great team effort.”
The Warriors have some top talent on their team, including Brett Howden, a 2016 first-round draft pick of the Tampa Bay Lightning, Josh Brook, a 2017 second-rounder of the Montreal Canadiens, and overager Jayden Halbgewachs, a 50-goal scorer last season.
“We know they’re a real good offensive team and we just stuck to our system in the D-zone, didn’t get caught running around and played tight,” said Loschiavo. “Berkie had a great game as well.
“…He played great, he came up huge when we needed him to. Definitely late in the game with a couple huge third-period saves and that’s what we need from him.”
It was a relatively quiet first period on the scoresheet, as neither team found the back of the net, however, the defensive battle was set as both teams were held at 11 shots apiece.
Loschiavo opened the scoring five minutes into the second period, tipping a shot from the point that beat Willms.
However, just after the halfway point, Jeannot knotted the game back up at 1-1 for the Warriors.
Late in the second period, Martin Bodak wound up and put a shot on goal that rang off the post, but a lurking Brett Davis was able to shovel in the rebound and earn the game-winner to put the Ice up 2-1.
The Ice continued to hold back the Warriors in the third period, even in the dying seconds with an extra attacker searching for the equalizer.
“Everyone on the ice did a good job,” said Patrick. “You talk about pressure in certain situations; pucks, when they’re rimmed, when they’re in the corner, if they bobble the puck, we want to pressure, if not, we’re in a shot lane and sinking in and protecting that house and we did that real well.”
NOTES: Hockey Canada unveiled their World U17 roster on Tuesday, and Kootenay Ice F Peyton Krebs will represent the nation at the tournament in early November. Cranbrook product Bowen Byram, a defenceman for the Vancouver Giants, was also named to the event. Canada will have 66 players at the event that will be split up into three teams of black, red and white.