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Ice drawing blood on the powerplay

The Kootenay Ice took on up the dinner rush at East Side Mario
The Kootenay Ice took on up the dinner rush at East Side Mario's last week, with all tips going towards the team's education fund. Above, Mackenzie Skapski and Luke Philp serve up drinks to some customers.
— image credit: Trevor Crawley photo

Kootenay's offence has been clicking over the past three games, scoring five goals or more in each contest, and their effectiveness on the powerplay is one key part.

The Ice have the WHL's third ranked powerplay in the league, going 24.7 percent, which ties them with the Wheat Kings, and only the Winterhawks are ahead at 24.9 per cent.

Their last three games—all wins—have featured goals with the man-advantage, as the team has scored four over that span.

Jaedon Descheneau has been the main beneficiary of offence from the powerplay, as he leads the team and is tied for sixth overall in the WHL at 13 goals with the man-advantage.

Though when confronted with that statistic, Descheneau brushes off the credit to his teammates.

"They're getting me the puck and my job, when they get it to me, is to put it in if I get that opportunity or pass it off to someone else," said Descheneau.

"They're giving me opportunities to score and I haven't really had to really do much to score, as in beat a guy or anything."

After Descheneau, Reinhart is second in team scoring on the powerplay, with eight goals, while Luke Philp is third with six markers.

Descheneau said that both puck movement and player positioning are key to finding open spaces to make dangerous plays.

But even then, there's always room for improvisation.

"We have a structure going into the powerplay that sometimes is not there and we have to move around and figure something out," said Descheneau, "and the guys who are out there—the first unit and the second unit—are smart enough players to figure that out and we're finding the holes and the seams to find players back door and so on and that's why I think we're doing so well."

One interesting facet of the powerplay is centre Luke Philp, who sits on the blue line and uses his slap shot to often dangerous effects.

"I've worked on it a bit this year and always had a pretty decent one-timer, I've felt," said Philp. "I've gotten it away this year and it's gotten me a couple goals, so that's nice."

Though he is a fourth forward when out on the powerplay, he still has to be mindful of defensive responsibilities when working on the point.

"You're the last guy back, so sometimes there will be four guys down low and you really want to go look to get that goal but you have to stay back and be the last guy back and that's probably the only thing I've had to adjust to," said Philp.

The Ice will be looking to keep their powerplay rolling when they face the visiting Moose Jaw Warriors on Saturday night.

The Warriors (13-27-3-5) are on a bit of a losing skid, dropping their last five in a row—two of which were decided in a shootout.

The Warriors were relatively quiet at the WHL trade deadline, but they did ship Chicago Blackhawks prospect Travis Brown to Victoria for Noah Gregor and draft picks.

The roster features Brayden Point, who replaced an injured player at the CHL Top Prospects game last week in Calgary. Point leads the Warriors with 22 goals and 27 assists for 49 points.

Goaltender Justin Paulic has gotten the lions share of the starts, with a 3.64 goals against average and a 0.889 save percentage.

Philp noted that Kootenay's victories over the last three games have been only the second time the team has won three straight this season.

But the confidence is growing as the schedule leads into the playoff stretch.

"Streaks have been tough to come by this year," said Philp, "and to get three in a row and feel like we're playing good hockey—we can't just be satisfied with three, we should always try for more, so we sense something building in there right now and we want to keep it going."

NOTES: Philp has recorded a point in each of the last nine games, while Tim Bozon is riding an eight game point streak. Landon Peel will make his 100th career WHL appearance on Saturday. Defenceman Jagger Dirk needs two more assists to reach 100 in his WHL career, while Philp needs four points to reach the century mark as well.

 

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