Story & Photos by Alex Rodgerson/ISN
The Vancouver Giants fired over seventy shots on goal on Tuesday night at the Langley Events Centre, blowing away the defending WHL champion Swift Current Broncos 6-2. Now without a regulation loss in eight games, the Giants controlled the play from the opening puck drop and never let up against the struggling Broncos who have only managed one win on the season. Swift Current goaltender Joel Hofer was miraculous between the pipes for the Broncos, turning away sixty-five shots in the loss while Giants’ goaltender David Tendeck collected dust in goal for Vancouver, only needing to make fourteen saves on the night.
The Broncos would come up completely flat in the opening minutes of Tuesday’s game against Vancouver, unable to match the energy of the Giants who entered the game on fire to start the season. Swift Current defenceman Matthew Stanley, who entered the game second in the league in PIMs, would head to the box early for the Broncos. The Giants’ powerplay, that currently sits eighth in the league, would go to work early and utilize their same umbrella strategy as they’ve employed all season. Bowen Byram, a potential top-10 pick in the upcoming 2019 NHL draft, would do what he’s done a lot of this season and snap a shot from the point that would beat Broncos’ goalie Hofer to make it 1-0 Vancouver.
Joel Hofer, a 2018 draft pick of the St. Louis Blues, made 53-saves in the Broncos first win of the season on Saturday but would have a tough time early with screens in front. With the Giants increasing their lead in shots to 15-2 just midway through the frame, Swift Current would get caught backing up far too much against the Giants’ forwards. This would lead to virtually no point coverage by the Broncos, allowing Vancouver to set up shop in the offensive zone and sustain over two minutes straight of five-on-five zone time. The Giants would head back to the powerplay at 9:11 looking to build on their early lead, after Broncos Owen Blocker would head off for holding.
The Broncos would look a lot more composed on this penalty kill, but just after it would expire the Giants would strike again. At 6:42 Dawson Holt would work a perfect give-and-go with Owen Hardy, and send a rising backhander over the shoulder of Hofer to make it 2-0 Giants. Broncos’ forward Ethan Regnier would get his teams best chance of the period, taking a breakaway pass and walking in alone on David Tendeck before having his shot denied by the right pad. The period would conclude with Swift Current lucky to be only down by two, being outshot 25-3. Matthew Stanley would have a period-high five hits for the Broncos.
Swift Current would come out stronger to start the second, getting a two-on-one early and forcing David Tendeck to make an excellent shoulder save. The Giants would tally again at 15:09 with Bowen Byram going into all-star mode and swooping around the Swift Current goal before tucking in a wrap around backhander past Hofer. Both Hardy and Holt would grab the assists for their second points of the night. Just when it looked like the Broncos were on the verge of being run right out of the rink, forward Tanner Nagel would answer back with a goal-of-the-year candidate. Nagel would come down the right wing, chipping the puck around Giants defenceman Bowen Byram before making a beautiful inside-outside move on Alex Kannok-Leipert and tucking the puck past Tendeck.
Swift Current would be energized by goal and manage their first bit of sustained pressure, but would still face a 3-1 deficit while being outshot 36-9 midway through period two. The Giants would regain their offensive stranglehold late in the period, pressing the Broncos into their defensive zone for minutes at a time yet again. Hofer would be outstanding in the crease for Swift Current, turning away fourty-three shots after two periods. Late in the second on a call that could only be described as ridiculous, Broncos’ Eric Houk would go to the box after clearing Davis Koch from the front of the net in what looked like just a regular bodycheck. However, in Ron Robison’s new “safer” WHL, this would be two minutes for cross-checking even though he didn’t even raise his stick. The Giants would head to period three up by two and holding a devastating 46-11 advantage in shots.
The final period would begin with the Giants picking right where they left off, with seemingly endless time on attack while a very slow to adjust Broncos team would struggle to keep up. At 12:15 the Giants would strike again to extend their lead to 4-1, when on their fifty-fourth shot of the game Davis Koch would come down the left wing on a two-on-one before snapping a high shot over the glove of Hofer. With 8:47 left in the game a heated battle in the corner would erupt between Giants’ Milos Roman and Broncos’ Matthew Stanley, with the two exchanging jabs before Stanley would drop his mits and throw about six or seven hard rights at Roman’s face. Roman’s gloves would stay on, and the Import forward would eat about five or six right hands before refs would finally jump in. Roman would receive two minutes for roughing while Stanley’s night would be done.
The temperature would continue to rise on the next play, with Alec Zawatsky burying Bowen Byram in the corner from behind. Zawatsky, like Stanley just moments prior, would also be given the gate for his actions. The Giants wouldn’t take the Broncos push back lightly, and on the ensuing major penalty to Zawatsky Vancouver defenceman Dylan Plouffe would walk into a big drive from the top of the circle for his first of the season. Vancouver wouldn’t be done on their current extended man advantage, and would rub some salt in the wounds late with Alex Kannok-Leipert scoring his first as the year on a pretty passing play. The Broncos would add one more in the dying moments, but the Giants would go on to breeze to a 6-2 victory.
The Giants successfully managed to stay hot on Tuesday night as Vancouver continues on with what has been their best start in ten years. Everything seems to be clicking for the G-Men so far this season who have played a high-pace, high-possession game which has led them to a 9-1-1-0 record on the young season. With Tuesday’s win, Vancouver is now has not fallen in regulation in eight games. Firing an insane seventy-one regulation shots on goal, the Giants offence continues to click with all four lines able to generate offence regularly. The only negative facing the Giants would be that goaltender David Tendeck has had slight problems this season when not facing a lot of shots, which is due to Vancouver’s ability to play in the offensive zone for minutes at a time.
For the Broncos there needs to be a major improvement to their work ethic, especially in their own zone. Too many times during Tuesday night’s loss were the Broncos guilty of being too slow in the defensive zone, not closing gaps and not taking the man when needed. This basically allows the opposing team to walk the perimeter of the zone undaunted for as long as they please, then proceeding to make a play to the point, or back down low. This was the case on Tuesday night for Swift Current which lead to them chasing the Giants from the get go.
Following Tuesday night’s big win over the Broncos I had an opportunity to speak with Giants’ forward Justin Sourdif, who played his first game since being named to Team Canada’s U-17 team for the upcoming 2018 World Hockey Challenge. Sourdif, a product of Surrey B.C., has caught a lot of attention this season with his strong play as a sixteen year old rookie, combining high-level skill and a hard-hitting style. Sourdif gave his thoughts about the Giants’ victory Tuesday night over the defending champs.
“I think we had a great effort, it especially showed on the shot clock” said Sourdif. “We had over seventy shots and played hard the whole game.”
Seeing over seventy shots fired on goal in any level of play is rare, but at the WHL level, and in regulation no less, it’s almost strange. I then asked Sourdif the last time he’s played on a team that was able to record that many shots on the goaltender.
“You know it was probably back in Bantam or PeeWee,” said the Giants rookie. “You don’t usually see that many shots in a WHL game, but I still thought they gave a good effort.”
Justin Sourdif made his presence felt for the first time in Giants’ colours back in the spring, when the Giants were ousted in the first round of the WHL playoffs by the Victoria Royals. Sourdif, suiting up for his first taste of WHL action in the playoffs, played with no fear and tilted the series with his physical play. I then asked Sourdif about his thoughts on his physical game.
“If the hits there i’ll take it,” said Sourdif. “Sometimes it can result in a goal, so If we’re on the forecheck and I can get a nice hit on the guy then I’ll do it.”
Sourdif continued to talk about how he believes that when he’s physically involved, he’s more involved in all the other aspects of the game as well.
“I play a lot better when i’m physical as opposed to just pokin’ pucks,” said the former Valley West Hawk. “I get into the mindset where i’m physically aggressive and offensively aggressive.”
Scheduled for Nov. 3-10 in Saint John and Quispamsis, N.B., the 2018 U-17 World Hockey Championships will feature the top players in the world under seventeen years of age. I asked Sourdif what the honour means to him to dawn the Canadian sweater.
“It’s a huge honour, i’m super excited about that.” said Sourdif. “Two weeks until I take off, so i’m going to try to make the most of the time I have here.”
Next up for the Giants is a Saturday night home-ice clash with the Portland Winterhawks.
Tonight’s ISN Scouting Report:
Swift Current Broncos – D Matthew Stanley
Swift Currents hits leader is also second in the whole league in penalty minutes, plays an edgy game on the backend and is great along the walls.
Vancouver Giants – D Parker Hendren
2001-born forward plays a very underrated game on defence, composed, makes the right decisions and doesn’t fluster. Makes a great first pass.