Story & Photos by Alex Rodgerson/ISN
Brayden Watts scored with 44.9 seconds left in regulation and added the shootout winner as the Vancouver Giants defeated the Spokane Chiefs by a final of 5-4 on Sunday afternoon at the Langley Events Centre. Looking to rebound from a Friday night defeat at the hands of Seattle, the Giants were able to pull out a last minute comeback victory despite trailing for the majority of the contest. Giants’ goaltender David Tendeck collected his third victory of the year, despite having a challenging opening forty minutes for Vancouver while his opposing netminder Dawson Weatherill picked up his first loss since opening night. The two teams entered tonight’s affair with identical 2-1 records on the season.
To open the contest Vancouver would spend the opening 3:10 in the attacking zone, with the line of Justin Sourdif, Milos Roman and Brayden Watts working hard along the corner boards and creating several plays back to the point. However, much like the other night against Seattle, a defensive lapse would lead to a quality opportunity the other way, and Spokane forward Bobby Russell beating David Tendeck on the Chief’s first shot of the game.
As the first period would continue the Giants would continue to press, only to have their best early opportunity ring off the crossbar and go the other way. On the transition, Chiefs’ forward Riley Woods would spot linemate Adam Beckman who’s quick shot would beat Tendeck for a 2-0 Spokane lead. It would be an uncharacteristic start for Tendeck, who would allow two goals on the opening six shots.
Langley’s own James Malm would cut the Chiefs lead in half late in the first period, notching his fourth goal in just the Giants’ fourth game to bring Vancouver back within reach. Giants defenceman Kaleb Bulych, who was an attendee of the Vancouver Canucks Youngstars tournament earlier this month, took a big hit in the first period from Chiefs 6’4 forward Jeff Faith and would not play another shift in the frame. Spokane’s star defenceman Ty Smith showed exactly why he was a 17th overall pick of the New Jersey Devils this past spring, showing true composure on the back end and breaking up a clean two-on-one for the Giants late the first.
Vancouver would start the second frame with a 10-6 edge in shots but would continue to be out hit by a more aggressive Spokane team. Giants’ defenceman Bulych would return to the ice for the second, much to the delight of Giants’ coaching staff. With Spokane beginning to close the gap in shots while still leading by one, Vancouver captain Jared Dmytriw would head to the box for slashing. On the ensuing man advantage, Spokane’s Adam Beckman would curl off the side boards and snap a quick wrist shot that would beat David Tendeck five-hole. For Beckman, a native of Saskatoon, this would be his second of the afternoon.
The two-goal lead wouldn’t last long however, as the Giants would respond at 12:31 of the period, with Brayden Watts spotting Vancouver’s star defenceman Bowen Byram creeping in from the blue-line. Byram would snap a quick shot that would beat Chiefs goaltender Dawson Weatherill between the wickets to bring the Giants back within a goal. Just moments after Byram’s tally the Giants would continue their attack as Kaleb Bulych, who was roughed up in the first period, would beat Weatherill from a terrible angle to tied the game at three.
The game looked like it would be heading to the third period all tied up, however Spokane’s Jack Finley had different plans. The Kelowna-born rookie would tally his first ever Western Hockey League goal on a fluttering shot from the side boards that would fool Tendeck, and restore the Chiefs one goal lead heading into the third.
The Giants would head into the final frame outshooting the Chiefs 15-14, but trail on the scoreboard 4-3. Milos Roman, still searching for his point of the 2018/2019 season, would have the best opportunity to tie the game early as the Giants import forward would have a centering pass arrive just out of his reach right in front of the Spokane goal. Vancouver would be unable to muster the tying goal until the final minute of action, when with the goalie pulled forward Brayden Watts who to go along with two assists in the game, would pot the game-tying tally with just 44.9 seconds left to send the game to overtime.
With the extra frame deciding nothing, the two teams would head to the shootout to decide this one. The first shooter for the Giants would be their leading goal scorer, James Malm, who would have his bid denied by Weatherill. After a Spokane miss the next shooter for Vancouver would be Surrey-born forward Davis Koch, who the Giants acquired last season for some added scoring depth. Despite struggling offensively to start the year Koch would find the back of the net, to put the Giants up 1-0 in the shootout. The Giants would remain up by one until the Chiefs’ final shooter Eli Zummack would break through for Spokane. The B.C. born Zummack would send the game into extra rounds before Brayden Watts, who tied the game late for Vancouver, would score to complete the 5-4 comeback victory.
Early on in the game it was noticeable that the Giants could have problems this season when facing hard-nosed hockey clubs. The Chiefs feature a lot of players that play very physical styles, and defenceman that take the body more so than not. This was addressed in tonight’s game as gritty forward Justin Sourdif was placed on the top line, but when push comes to shove outside of Sourdif the Giants don’t have a lot of size up front. Former Giant Darian Skeoch’s departure was also not addressed over the offseason, so it will be interesting to see who steps up to fill his enforcer shoes as the season progresses and games become more and more intense. With Vancouver’s record now at 3-1 on the year, the Giants now head to Kelowna for a Wednesday match-up with the Rockets at Prospera Place.
Tonight’s ISN Scouting Report:
Vancouver Giants – F Justin Sourdif
Plays a strong and heavy game while also possessing a high-end skill set. Still getting used to Major junior, but has a very bright future with Giants.
Spokane Chiefs – D Ty Smith
New Jersey Devils pick from 2018 has tremendous skating ability and plays a cool, confident game on the blue line. Smith had 73 points in 69 games last season.