WEATHER ALERT

Big deadline trades paying off for Ice

Squad regains its spot atop WHL standings with solid win over visiting Warriors

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Surely these were the kind of nights the Winnipeg Ice envisioned when they dealt to deepen their forward group at the trade deadline earlier this month.

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Surely these were the kind of nights the Winnipeg Ice envisioned when they dealt to deepen their forward group at the trade deadline earlier this month.

The Ice hit the gas early and never looked back, throttling the visiting Moose Jaw Warriors 6-0 at Wayne Fleming Arena on Sunday evening to extend their win streak to four games. Winnipeg reclaimed their place atop the Western Hockey League, jumping to 33-5-1 (67 points) on the season while the Warriors dropped to 28-15-0 (59 points).

The two playoff-bound clubs renewed acquaintances less than 24 hours after their Saturday night affair went the distance, ending in a 3-2 shootout win for the Ice.

JOHN WOODS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Winnipeg Ice Josh Medernach (27) tries to tip the puck past Moose Jaw Warriors Connor Ungar (32) as Matthew Gallant (39) defends during first period WHL action in Winnipeg on Sunday.

Mason Beaupit preserved a 20-save shutout while Ty Nash, Connor McClennon, Matthew Savoie, Zack Ostapchuk, Owen Pederson and Carson Lambos found the back of the net for the hosts on a night James Patrick’s squad looked every bit of a championship-hopeful team.

“Obviously a game like this, there’s a lot less stress on the coach, but at 4-0 you’re still coaching the exact same way because I don’t want to give up a goal,” the bench boss said. “The bottom line is last night I thought they were the better team, they outplayed us as far as zone time, scoring chances and I thought we just turned the tables tonight. I thought our tenacity, our pace were outstanding. All four lines, I could compliment so many of our players.”

Special teams were the key before this one broke open. While the Ice entered Sunday’s contest as just the ninth-ranked unit with the man advantage (24.3 per cent), they had found some recent success, going 6-for-12 during the win streak. The Ice were 2-for-3 this time around, both goals coming in the opening frame.

Winnipeg escaped a costly turnover as defenceman Jonas Woo had his pocket picked by Ben Riche before he snapped a shot past Beaupit. The goal was immediately waved off by an official, however, and promptly called a hooking penalty on Riche.

The Ice made no mistake with the extra man, as Ty Nash finished off a pretty cross-zone passing play from Zach Benson and McClennon for his 16th tuck of the season.

A nearly identical play ensued a couple of minutes later with the Ice again on the power play, this time with McClennon as the benefactor of a tick-tack-toe passing from Benson and Matthew Savoie, notching his 22nd marker of the season.

Benson’s two helpers extended his point streak to 14 games, in what’s been a fruitful campaign for what projects to be a top-10 pick in this year’s NHL Draft.

“We all love the game, we’re all having so much fun. And getting wins is kind of that more fun on top of that,” said Benson, who will attend the CHL Top Prospects Game in Langley, B.C., later this week. “A few big additions, and we don’t really think of these nights — we kind of just think of getting the wins. But with the group we have, having these nights is definitely nice.”

“I thought we were good on both ends. Obviously (Beaupit) made a few big saves, happy for him. I think we played a full 200-foot game.”

The Ice saw similar fortunes in the second period, this time while shorthanded, as Savoie was sprung on a breakaway by a rimming puck that got past the Warriors’ defence. Savoie, who scored the lone shootout goal Saturday night, made easy work of another one-on-one opportunity, burying his 18th of the season.

JOHN WOODS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Winnipeg Ice Zach Benson (9) can’t get the puck past Moose Jaw Warriors Connor Ungar (32) during the first period.

With the rest of the game having the makings of nothing but a formality, Pederson dumped more salt on the visitor’s special-teams wounds, finishing a nice solo effort on the penalty kill to swell the Ice lead to six, in what capped a dominant four-goal frame for the hosts.

“(Special teams) was probably the biggest key to the game,” Patrick said. Getting a power play goal quick — again, the puck movement on it was really good. High-end play, and I just think (Savoie) and Benson and McClennon are really gelling as a unit out there.

“We have our top-end guys all kill and they’re good (on) both ends of the ice. Ostapchuk and (Pederson) are getting some chemistry going short-handed and we know that (Savoie) and Benson have been great all year for us.”

The Ice will have some time to savour their successful weekend before hitting the road for a three-game trip in Alberta. Winnipeg (33-5-1) is back in action Friday against the Lethbridge Hurricanes (24-16-3), 8 p.m. puck drop.

jfreysam@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @jfreysam

Joshua Frey-Sam

Joshua Frey-Sam
Reporter

Joshua Frey-Sam happily welcomes a spirited sports debate any day of the week.

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