The Everett Silvertips did not provide a particularly friendly housewarming for the Vancouver Giants. The Silvertips outscored the Giants 5-1 in the first period, which took the near sold-out Langley Events Centre crowd out of the game and ultimately put the game out of reach. The Giants’ first game in their new home ended with a 7-3 loss.
“We had a real slow start. We got a bit better in the second and third, but we got a long ways to go, and that’s for sure,” said Giants head coach Jason McKee.
The pre-game ceremony featured a tribute to Gordie Howe, who was a part owner of the team. Donned in their ‘Mr Hockey’ uniforms, the Giants took the ice to watch Howe’s number nine go into the rafters to a standing ovation from the crowd. This did nothing to spark the home team, as Everett scored just three minutes into the game, and by the twelve minute mark, they had put four goals past Giants goalie Ryan Kubic.
The Giants feature a relatively young lineup, but McKee was not willing to use that as an excuse. “A lot of these guys are young guys but they played in the league last year… Everett’s got a young team too, so I don’t want to use that as an excuse. We’ve got to show up; we’ve got to be ready to play, and we just simply weren’t.”
One of the bright spots in the game for the Giants was Dawson Holt. The 17-year-old forward from Saskatoon tallied two of the three goals for the Giants. Holt did not score a goal in 40 games last year, so the two goals on Friday night came somewhat as a relief. “It’s a monkey off the back, but I’m just focusing on the team game. Not winning there sucks, and we’ve got to focus on the next game,” he said. Holt noted that nerves may have played a factor in the slow start, but he feels that may have been something that had to get out of his team’s system. “I think it’s hard not to be nervous coming into a new rink and first game of the season. But it’s nice to get those out, get the bad game out of the way, and start playing well for the rest of the season.”
After going down 5-1 at the end of the first period, the Giants managed to tie the Silvertips in the second and third period. McKee’s positive takeaway from the loss was with how his team responded. “We stayed with it,” said McKee. “Our goal was to not quit and stay with it, and I think we tied the second and tied the third…. We wanted to finish in the right way, and I thought we played hard to the end.” Jack Flaman tallied the late goal for the Giants, which narrowed the deficit to four, but it was far too late in the game for any dramatics.
The Giants now face the daunting task of having to immediately travel south to Everett for a rematch against the Silvertips on Saturday night. “We’ll have to make a few adjustments,” said McKee. “I think some guys are maybe thinking a little bit too much out there. I think we’ll simplify it, and hopefully (the Giants will) use their hockey instincts a little bit more here. We’ll make a simple game plan for them, and hopefully that plays dividends for us tomorrow.”
Giants defenceman Matt Barberis left the game with an undisclosed injury in the second period and did not return. There was no update given post-game. Barberis missed time last season with an upper-body injury, and his loss would be a big blow to the Giants’ back-end.