Ice rally to knock off Blades

Hosts take control of game after falling behind early


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Momentum is a funny and powerful phenomenon. Once the Winnipeg Ice captured it, they refused to let go.

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Momentum is a funny and powerful phenomenon. Once the Winnipeg Ice captured it, they refused to let go.

Winnipeg’s Western Hockey League squad weathered some undeserved adversity early on before rallying to knock off the visiting Saskatoon Blades 5-3 and clinch the season series at Wayne Fleming Arena Wednesday night.

The Ice improved to 36-6-1 (73 points) on the season, maintaining their standing atop the league while the Blades continued their recent slide, dropping to 29-12-3 (62 points).

Winnipeg returned home for the first time in 10 days after going on an Alberta road trip that saw the team nab four of a possible six points over a three-game weekend. It was yet another successful defence of home turf. The club has lost just three times in their barn this season, the last on Jan. 11.

Zack Ostapchuk broke the seal for the hosts while Zach Benson and Connor McClennon with two each also found the back of the Blades net and goaltender Daniel Hauser picked up the victory on the back of 26 saves to secure his 24th win of the year.

“Obviously, the power play gave us some huge life,” said head coach James Patrick, whose club went two for four with the man advantage. “Even the first two minutes of it, I thought we had some good energy off it, we had some good looks, some almost chances. Maybe persistence paid off on the power play. Got us right back and then, obviously, Zach (Benson) made a couple of good plays that got us the lead.

“I said if we got 20 shots on goal on in the first period, it’s going to be real tough on them. We got 22 shots and we were down goal. But I felt like if we played like that, sooner or later we were going to break through.”

This mid-week tilt was more lopsided than the score indicates. The Ice peppered the Blades with 48 shots to 29 from the visitors and had numerous stints in which the ice was heavily tilted in their favour.

Despite a first period that was largely dominated by the hosts to the tune of 20 to eight shots on goal, it was the Blades that drew first blood on the back of a slick play at the blue line by defenceman Tanner Molendyk.

The visitors continued their stunning start to the game as the second frame opened up. Leading scorer Egor Sidorov, the 36th-ranked North American skater in NHL’s central scouting mid-term rankings, made his mark by finishing an odd-man rush to double the visitor’s lead.

Then the Ice hit the power play for the first time.

The floodgates opened for the lethal club halfway through the frame as Zack Ostapchuk showcased his strength, pivoting from the side of the net before driving home his 15th goal of the season to cut the lead in half.

“I like to think so,” Ostapchuk said of his marker flipping the momentum. “It was kind of a lucky shot there, we outshot them pretty heavily so to get a bounce like that was pretty nice and I think it opened up the floodgates a little bit.

“We were probably at 28 or 29 shots there and when you finally get a greasy one like that I think everyone is relieved a bit that the floodgates are open there.”

Fellow goal scorer Zach Benson was not to be outdone, however. Just 17 seconds later, the Ice’s leading scorer tapped in a cross-ice feed from Karter Prosofsky to even things up. Benson, the seventh-ranked North American skater in NHL’s central scouting mid-term rankings, is fresh off a trip to the CHL Prospects Showcase in Vancouver, B.C., where he recorded one goal. His three points on the night elevate his current tear to 34 points in the last 18 contests.

After picking up an assist on Connor McClennon’s 29th marker of the year in the second frame, Benson went back to work early in the third period, dancing through the Blades’ defence before leaving goaltender Ethan Chadwick sprawling for his life while he slid in a backhand for his second of the night. It would prove to put the game out of reach for the visitors.

“At times, it’s a game of momentum swings,” Patrick said. “I thought we had good life in the first period but offensively we were — not snake bitten — I just thought we weren’t getting to the front of the net. I thought from that point on, it was pretty exciting for the bench and the energy picked up after that, for sure.“

While the Ice’s one-game home stand was short-lived, the team won’t wander too far from home. Winnipeg is Brandon-bound to face the Wheat Kings (19-21-6) on Friday at Westoba Place, 7 p.m. puck drop.

Twitter: @jfreysam

Joshua Frey-Sam

Joshua Frey-Sam

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


Updated on Thursday, February 2, 2023 10:08 AM CST: Corrects spelling of Prosofsky

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