Burning the Icedogs

If Ryan Parkhouse and Cody Hess could play every game against the Bozeman Icedogs, they might be on their way to the National Hockey League. Or at least a spot on a major college hockey team.

Parkhouse and Hess continued their domination of the Icedogs on Wednesday night, teaming up for six more points in the Helena Bighorns’ 5-0 victory in a NorPac hockey game at the Helena Ice Arena. Parkhouse scored twice and had one assist, while Hess had three assists as Helena (23-1, 46 points) reached the midway point of its season with a 14-point lead in the America West Division.

Parkhouse now has six goals and 13 points, while Hess has 16 points in six games against the Icedogs this season. Hess, the hottest Bighorn at the moment, has points in seven straight games as Helena recorded its sixth straight victory and sent Bozeman (10-15, 20 points) to a fifth straight loss.

“I thought we got better as the game went along,” Helena coach Scott Cunningham said.

Helena dominated virtually every facet of the game, holding a 73-20 shot advantage and a 58-25 edge in faceoffs in beating the Icedogs for the sixth time in as many meetings this season — three coming by shutout — and improving to 12-0 at home this season.

The top line of Hess, Parkhouse and Anthony Petruzzelli again led the way.

“I like it a lot,” Parkhouse said of the combination that has been together for the past two weeks. “Cody and I like to get in the corners and grind it up and all three of us can finish really well. We have great chemistry.”

Hess and Parkhouse wasted little time in getting into the action Wednesday. With the game less than a minute old, Hess took a puck in the neutral zone, fed Parkhouse, who shook off a defender and beat Bozeman goalie Taylor D’Agostino low blocker side for a 1-0 lead.

“I got a pass from Hess and both defensemen seemed like they were flat-footed,” Parkhouse said. “I just kind of chipped it by one and leaned in on one and threw it far side on the goalie.”

D’Agostino (68 saves) and the Icedogs settled down, killed off three Helena power plays and kept the Bighorns off the scoresheet for the next 30 minutes before Chris Rinaldi beat D’Agostino with a close-in shot to make it 2-0 with 8:53 left in the second period.

Parkhouse nearly got his second of the night three minutes later, but D’Agostino fended his shot off with his arm. The puck caromed out to the blue line where Patrick Love blasted it home for his eighth goal of the season and a 3-0 lead.

Bozeman never got many  good scoring chances against Patrick Wenzell, who posted his second shutout of the year.

“We’re a really good, well-conditioned team,” Parkhouse said. “We turned it on more in the third.”

Leading 4-0 with just over two minutes in the game, Hess and Parkhouse connected once more. Hess’ aggressive forecheck stripped the puck from Bozeman defenseman Eli Bowman. Hess spotted a wide open Parkhouse in the high slot and his wrister beat a stunned D’Agostino for the final tally of the night.

“Coach had been talking to us all game about getting in the corners,” Hess said. “I saw my opportunity to stick-check him and grabbed the puck and fed it to Parkhouse and he buried it.”

The news wasn’t all good for the Bighorns, however. Defenseman Marcus McSweeney took a puck in the face in the third period and had to be taken to the hospital.

The Bighorns now head to Spokane, Wash., where they will play four games in three days against Pacific Division teams, beginning on Friday. The highlight of the weekend is likely a Cascade Cup final rematch against the Pacific Division-leading Seattle Totems on Saturday night.