Giants Blank T-Birds

Vancouver Giants jersey crest

(ISN) – KENT,  – The Vancouver Giants defeated the Seattle Thunderbirds Saturday night, coming away with a 1-0 victory in their first trip to the ShoWare Center. The win makes Vancouver 7-8-0-0 on the season. Seattle is now 6-6-2-1 and remains one point back from the third spot in the U.S. Division.

Taran Kozun made the start at goalie for the T-Birds. He took his fourth loss of the season after stopping 23 of 24 shots. Kozun is now 6-4-2-1 on the season. Starting for Vancouver was Cody Porter, who got his first WHL victory with a 38-save shutout.

Seattle’s first chance came two minutes into the game. After a bit of pressure, Mathew Barzal stole the puck in the zone and got it to Ryan Gropp. Gropp had enough room to skate deep and get a shot off, which as knocked away by Porter. Two rebound attempts couldn’t quite make it past the Vancouver goaltender either. It was the first of many successful forechecks by the T-Birds, who managed 10 shots in the first 10 minutes of the game thanks in large part to a plethora of takeaways.

The first power play of the game went to the home team as well, coming at 14:55. Seattle had a few shots, including two from the point, but was unable to get a goal, keeping the game in a scoreless deadlock.

Faceoffs in the first period favored Vancouver 9-7 but shots were 19-10 Seattle despite no goals.

Barzal found Justin Hickman with a centering pass two minutes into the second period, coming inches away from giving Seattle the lead. Hickman was unable to redirect the puck toward the net as the Vancouver defense bore down on him and the puck ended up bounding away to the boards. The T-Birds took their first penalty soon thereafter, falling a man down for two minutes. A strong team effort on the penalty kill, coupled with an icing call against Vancouver, brought the game back to five-on-five with the game still scoreless.

Alexander True nearly scored at 7:15. True took a shot from within the faceoff circle during an extended attack. The puck rebounded directly in front of the crease, where two T-Birds fought to get it past Porter before they were erased by Vancouver’s defense. Once again, a penalty went against Seattle within a minute of the chance. The Giants were unable to record a shot on goal during their power play.

The T-Birds had several more chances in the last minute of the second period. A shot from Hickman deflected high off of Porter. Gropp was waiting in the crease for the rebound but was unable to hit the puck out of the air and sent his eventual shot into Porter’s chest. A pile of bodies formed in the crease, with the puck bouncing back out to near the blue line, where Hickman was unable to get control of the puck in time for another shot.

Shots in the second period were 9-6 Seattle and faceoffs were 12-7 Vancouver.

Barzal appeared to score the game’s first goal while shorthanded at 1:30. Barzal took the puck on a partial breakaway and deked to his backhand. His shot beat Porter but was ruled to have bounced off the post and out before crossing the goal line.

Kozun made an important save at 7:55 to keep the game tied. The Giants had a two-on-one opportunity and got a shot off from deep in the faceoff circle. Kozun fought it off, only to have the puck go right back onto a Giant stick and thrown back through the crease. No one was able to redirect the puck as it made its way all the way to the blue line, giving Kozun enough time to get back in position.

Alec Baer scored the game’s first goal at 12:46, giving Vancouver the lead on the power play. Baer was able to stickhandle toward the crease and beat Kozun with a wrist shot. The goal, Baer’s sixth of the season, was assisted by Matt Bellerive.

Kozun was pulled with two minutes left in the game and Seattle down by one goal. An attempt at the empty net led to an icing call against Vancouver, giving Seattle an offensive zone faceoff with just 35 seconds remaining in the game. Despite pressure, the T-Birds couldn’t get quite enough of a push to tie the game and came away goalless.

Shots in the final period of play were 10-8 Seattle. Faceoffs favored Vancouver 10-9.

Prior to tonight’s game, the T-Birds assigned goalie Logan Flodell to the Nipawin Hawks of the SJHL. Flodell had appeared in one game this season, in which he stopped 37 of 40 shots in a loss to the Prince George Cougars.

The T-Birds will be at home on Tuesday, hosting the Reed Deer Rebels at the ShoWare Center at 7:05 pm. After that, Seattle will head to Prince Albert to take on the Raiders on Friday at 5:00 pm.