Jason McKee’s Vancouver Giants are heading back to the Lower Mainland one victory away from a berth in Round 2 of the WHL Playoffs. Saturday night in front of 6792 strong the Vancouver Giants defeated the Victoria Royals 5-3. Bowen Byram led the Giants with two goals while Davis Koch, Jared Dmytriw and James Malm each added singles. David Tendeck was sharp in goal stopping 26 of the 29 shots fired his way. Vancouver’s penalty-kill went five-for-six as the Giants earned their second road victory of the series. Matthew Phillips responded with a goal and two assists for the Royals.
Vancouver’s penalty-kill has been busy in the series and the first period of Saturday’s game was no exception. Victoria earned four straight power play opportunities in the opening frame but each time the Giants killed it off. Mid-way through the first period Davis Koch made it 1-0 for the Giants when he snuck into the slot, took a pass from Tyler Benson and converted for his second goal of the series. Shots after one were 10-8 Victoria but the Giants led 1-0.
7:28 into the middle period the Giants extended their lead to 2-0 when rookie Bowen Byram ripped home his second of the series. Dawson Holt spun off a check along the left-wing boards and centered a perfect pass across the ice to the pinching Byram. From there the Western Conference Rookie of the Year nominee one-timed it past Royals starter Griffen Outhouse. He wasn’t done.
Less than a minute later, Byram struck again. This time he moved into the slot, took a feed from Ty Ronning and wired home a shot through traffic and past Outhouse’s glove to make it a 3-0 Giants lead.
Jared Dmytriw then made it 4-0 Vancouver at 9:56 when he deflected home a Kaleb Bulych point-shot for his second of the series. In total, the Giants scored those three goals in a span of two minutes and 28 seconds.
Victoria responded 26 seconds later with their first of the night. Matthew Phillips raced wide on the Giants defense, went in alone on David Tendeck and snuck a backhand deke past the Giants netminder for his second of the series.
The remainder of the period was scoreless as the Giants led 4-1 after two periods and outshot Victoria 13-6 in the middle stanza.
Needing a big push, the Royals leaned heavily on Matthew Phillips, Dante Hannoun and Noah Gregor in the third period. The three 19-year-olds combined on a goal at 7:21 when Noah Gregor finished off a Matthew Phillips pass for his third of the series.
A minute and 22 seconds later though the Giants countered with the game’s eventual insurance goal. James Malm raced wide on a defender down the right-wing and tried to back-hand a pass across the ice to Ty Ronning in close. Instead the puck bounced off the Royals defenceman, back to Malm who finished off the play for his second of the series and a 5-2 Giants lead.
Dante Hannoun scored at 11:41 on a power play to move Victoria back within two, but that’s as close as they’d get. David Tendeck made a terrific left pad save off Jeff de Wit in the final minutes to do his part in the third, and all throughout the lineup the Giants had players blocking shots and sacrificing their bodies on the defensive side of the puck.
The final shots were 31-29 for the Giants who went zero-for-one on their lone power play of the game. Victoria went one-for-six on their chances.
Next up for the Giants: Game 6 back hoe on Monday, April 2nd at 2:00 PM. A win that afternoon would give the Giants the series victory and would confirm a second-round series with the Tri-City Americans. Game 7 if necessary would be back in Victoria on Tuesday night at 7:05 PM.