Friday, 20 September 2019

Historic Night

While I usually don't start articles with comments about Jumbotrons, that's one heckuva nightlight that the Wheat Kings had installed in Westoba Place. The WHL season opened up tonight with an all-Manitoba affair for the first time since 1977 when the Winnipeg Monarchs called the Manitoba capital home. The Wheat Kings, under their impressive new four-sided television, opened the season by playing host to the Winnipeg Ice on a night that literally saw the rivalry started with a bang!

Just 21 seconds into this game, the WHL saw its first ejection of the season when Brandon's Ridly Greig took a run at Winnipeg's Chase Hartje, making contact with the head. His ejection for a check to the head prompted Isaac Johnson of the Ice to take roughing penalty as well, so the rivalry between the two Manitoba clubs was off to a rather bullish start with 17 minutes in penalties before the game was 30 seconds old.

Once the teams finally decided to play hockey, the 4959 fans in attendance were treated to a fairly up-tempo hockey contest! There were no goals in the opening frame despite Brandon having two power-play opportunities to the Ice's one opportunity, so it was onto the second period where we'd see the scoring pick up.

Connor McClennon, who looked dangerous all night for the Ice, tipped home a Carson Lambos point shot past Brandon's Jiri Patera at 5:58 following a face-off win, and the Ice jumped out to the 1-0 lead off McClennon's historic marker. Later in the period, Michal Teply controlled the puck behind the net before finding a wide-open Isaac Johnson in the slot, and he made no mistake burying the puck at 17:11 to put Manitoba up 2-0! Brandon did have chances all period long, it seemed, but they were denied by both Winnipeg's Dean McNabb and the goal posts on a number of occasions!

The third period started the same way that the second period ended as Winnipeg scored another goal. Teply was on the doorstep to chip a loose puck past Patera after he juggled a Carson Lambos point shot, and the Ice had themselves a 3-0 lead just 33 seconds into the final frame. If Dave Lowry's Wheat Kings team needed a wake-up call, it had to come quickly!

Halfway through the third period, the Wheat Kings would finally solve McNabb when Lynden McCallum won a puck battle along the right-wing half-wall and sent a pass to Vincent Iorio whose shot tipped off someone in front and eluded McBann at 9:11 to make it a 3-1 contest! Minutes later, Luka Burzan carried the puck in over the blue line on the right side before centering a pass that found Zach Wytnick in the high-slot, and his high shot zipped past McNabb at 15:20 to make it a 3-2 game! Could Brandon complete the comeback in the final 4:40?

That answer would be no as the Ice withstood the final barrage by the Wheat Kings to win their first game as the Winnipeg ice by a 3-2 score! Brandon netminder Jiri Patera was named the first star of the game, and there's no doubt that it might have been a 5-2 or 6-2 game had Patera not made some highlight-reel saves. The Ice finished the game with 45 shots compared to the 26 that Brandon managed, and there were some pucks that looked like goals had it not been for the Czech netminder.

Mark these historic firsts down, folks:
  • September 20, 2019 - first win for the Winnipeg Ice in a 3-2 victory over the Brandon Wheat Kings.
  • Dean McNabb earns the first win in net, stopping 24 of 26 shots.
  • Connor McClennon scored the first goal at 5:58 of the second period with Carson Lambos and Brad Ginnell earning the assists.
  • Isaac Johnson was the first Ice player penalized just 21 seconds into the game on a minor penalty for roughing.
It should also be noted that, thanks to the high humidity in Manitoba on Friday, the ice surface was covered in fog for the opening moments of each period. It looked to be pretty thick at times as shown on the broadcast.
Despite the somewhat spooky-looking conditions, this was a night to remember for the Ice franchise. Congratulations to the Winnipeg Ice on winning their first-ever game as residents of Winnipeg, and here's to many more this season and beyond as Winnipeg's new WHL team makes itself known in Winnipeg and Brandon!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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