The Western Hockey League’s newly relocated Winnipeg ICE have found the franchise’s first victory. Following a lopsided 5-0 defeat to the Wheat Kings on Thursday, the ICE took to the trenches Friday evening and turned the tides on a 5-1 Winnipeg win. Despite the exhibition games holding no significant long-lasting value, the two back-to-back Manitoban battles carried a certain regular season vibe.
Thursday’s matchup in Brandon was the opening of the preseason for both clubs. The Wheat Kings dressed a rather veteran squad, with returnees Caiden Daley, Connor Gutenberg and Cole Reinhardt, as well as rookies Ty Thorpe, Vincent Iorio and Nolan Ritchie each putting up multi-point efforts in the five-goal victory.
Brandon capitalized early on three power play markers, going up 3-0 just 2:26 into the second frame. Goaltenders Ethan Kruger and Connor Ungar combined for the shutout, making a collective 35 stops in the process. Winnipeg’s Daniel Hauser and Will Gurski did not get so lucky, as the pair gave up five goals on 34 Wheaties shots.
Friday’s contest was totally different story. Hosted at Stride Place in Portage, the neutral location proved helpful for the ICE, who erupted for four goals in the second period. Despite Johnny Hooker’s second goal in as many days, Winnipeg kept the pedal to the metal, finishing the night with five goals and preseason split.
Rookie Matthew Savoie led the way for the ICE with two assists, while Connor McLennon and Brad Ginnell each potted a goal and assist in the 5-1 victory. Kruger and Ungar allowed five goals on just 27 Winnipeg shots, while Gurski stood tall for the duration of the contest, turning aside 22 of 23 pucks in the victory. Things got chippy late in the game, as Ridly Greig delivered a crushing blow to Savoie open-ice, resulting in a significant scrum – the first of many in this all-Manitoban rivalry.
Following the games, Brandon re-assigned its three 2019 first round selections Nate Danielson, Rylan Roersma and Tyson Zimmer, bringing its roster down to 16 forwards, nine defencemen and three netminders. Winnipeg has yet to announce its roster moves.
Next up for the Wheat Kings is a home-and-home with the Moose Jaw Warriors this coming weekend, with Friday’s contest going at Mosaic Place in Saskatchewan at 8:00 PM, followed by a 7:30 PM rematch on Saturday at Westman Place. Winnipeg will travel to Saskatoon this weekend for its final two games of the preseason, as the ICE will battle the Blades on both Friday and Saturday in 7:00 PM central contests. The 2019-20 WHL regular season will begin the following week with a home-and-home between the ICE and Wheat Kings on the 20th and 21st of the month.