Vancouver Giants Weekend Preview

115

Dan Elliott

Coming off an impressive win over the top team in the Eastern Conference last Saturday, the Giants look to kick off the month of February with a victory over the best team in the WHL and Western Conference, the Kamloops Blazers. It’s a month which will test the Giants conditioning as the play 12 games in 23 days beginning Friday night at the Pacific Coliseum. Heading into this weekend, the Giants (29-19-1-2) currently sit in 2nd place in the BC Division and 5th overall in the Western Conference, 15 points back of Kamloops for first in the division, two points back of Spokane for 4th in the conference, and 8 points back of Portland for 3rd in the West.

The Kamloops Blazers sit in 1st place in the BC Division, 1st place in the Western Conference, and 1st place in the WHL with a record of 36-11-1-3 and 76 points. They are on pace for their first BC Division Championship Banner since 2001-02. Kamloops comes into the weekend having won 11 of their last 13 games, outscoring their opponents 53-21 in the process. They also just happen to be the best road team in the league having won 17 of their 26 games away from the Interior Savings Centre. Offensively the Blazers are led by 19 year old forward Brendan Ranford, who is 15th in the league in scoring, and has 8 goals and 8 assists in his last 11 games. Another player to watch, fresh off his apperance at the CHL Top Prospects game, is Tim Bozon. He his last 13 games, the rookie has 10 goals and 10 assists. A big reason for the Blazers success this season has been the job Cole Cheveldave has done in the net. He is 26-6-1-3 this year with a goals against average of 2.33, a save percentage of .918%, not to mention 4 shutouts. Friday will be the fourth of eight meetings this year between the Giants and Blazers. Vancouver is 1-2-0-0 so far, with home team winning every game. Kamloops won 6-3 on September 30 and 3-1 on December 28, while the Giants defeated the Blazers 4-3 in a shootout on December 27. Puck drop is 7:30 pm at the Pacific Coliseum. It is also Canadian Direct Insurance Legends Night featuring Gordie Howe. The Giants will wear special uniform’s honouring Mr. Hockey and 100 lucky fans will get the opportunity to meet the Hockey Hall of Famer. Plus the first 5000 fans through the door receive a commemorative poster.

Following the game on Friday, the Giants will immediately head to Portland (33-13-2-1) for a pair of games vs. the Winterhawks on Saturday February 4 and Monday February 6. Not an easy task, considering the Winterhawks have won a franchise record 18 straight games on home ice. However, the Giants have had success vs. the Winterhawks this year winning both of the previous meetings; 5-3 on December 9 (Jordan Martinook scored a hat trick) and 8-4 on January 7 (Brendan Gallagher collected 7 points, 3 goals and 4 assists). Portland comes into the weekend having won 13 of their last 16 games and boasting the league’s leading scorer in Ty Rattie. The St. Louis Blues draft pick has 42 goals and 44 assists for 86 points in 42 games. He is riding a 7 game point streak in which he has 4 goals and 6 assists; however, he has just 2 assists in 2 games against the Giants. Goaltender Mac Carruth leads the league in wins with 30.

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