Story by Alex Rodgerson/ISN
The Vancouver Giants made a triumphant return to the Pacific Coliseum on Saturday night, earning a hard fought 5-2 victory over the Tri-City Americans in their return to the rink they called home for fifteen seasons. Five different Giants would hit the score-sheet on Saturday night, on a night that would feature a special pre-game ceremony honouring the legends of the Coliseum’s past.
The Giants would enter Saturday night’s clash with the Americans coming off a gutsy road victory over Kelowna on Wednesday, looking for their fifth straight win against a Tri-City team that took three of four from Vancouver last season. In their first head-to-head of the WHL season, the Americans would be looking to rebound from an overtime defeat at home just one night prior.
The games’ opening minute would see Americans’ defenceman and C-Ranked prospect Mitchell Brown make a sliding defensive play to prevent a goal, after his goaltender Beck Warm would lose control of the puck behind his own net. The Giants would be undeterred however, and head to the powerplay just moments later.
On the man advantage, Giants’ defenceman and Arizona Coyotes’ prospect Dylan Plouffe would find an open shooting lane from the point, and put a hard puck on net that would be re-directed home by Milos Roman. For Roman, his fourteenth of the season would pull him into a tie for the team-lead in points, while with the assist Dylan Plouffe would record his eighteenth point in twenty-two games this season.
Americans’ 1998-born winger Parker Aucoin would get the first good look for Tri-City on David Tendeck, but would be stopped by the Giants’ goaltender for one of his seven first period saves. With the Giants ahead in shots 5-4 just passed the midway mark of the period, the Giants’ penalty-kill would then go to work for the first time on the night as rookie Evan Patrician would head to the box for Vancouver.
Tri-City’s powerplay, ranked second worst in the entire WHL, would be unable to muster any offence against Vancouver’s penalty-kill, currently ranked second in the league. After the penalty to Patrician would expire, the rookie would jump out of the box and take the puck down the right wing before snapping a quick shot far-side on Warm to double the Giants lead. For Patrician, it would be his first goal in the Western Hockey League as Vancouver would take a 2-0 lead into the dressing room after twenty minutes.
Tri-City would get the first good chance of the period two, as the Americans’ skaters would begin to move their feet in hopes of cutting into the Giants’ lead. After Calgary-born rookie Blake Stevenson would send a hard pass across the Giants crease, David Tendeck would be forced to make a marvelous right pad stop, slamming his skate to the post to keep his team ahead by two. Tendeck wouldn’t be done there however, as the native of North Vancouver would make a sprawling save on a partial breakaway just moments later for his eleventh save of the night. Tri-City would head to a two-man advantage just passed the five minute mark of the second, after Alex Kannok-Leipert and Brayden Watts would both head to the sin bin.
After struggling to get set up for the majority of the advantage the Americans would finally break through just after the first penalty would expire, with Samuel Stewart firing a puck across the slot to Isaac Johnson who would one-time his tenth of the year passed Tendeck. For Johnson, who currently sits second in team scoring with twenty nine points in twenty four games, this would extend his point streak to six games and cut the Vancouver lead to 2-1.
The Giants’ line of Owen Hardy, Jared Dmytriw and Dawson Holt would turn the momentum back in Vancouver’s favour late in the period, with some great fore-checking and hard work beneath the Tri-City goal line. After Owen Hardy would win a puck battle behind the net, Dawson Holt would drag the puck out front before snapping his fifth of the season over the shoulder of Beck Warm to restore the Giants’ two goal lead.
The late goings of the second would see the two teams trade goals, as Parker Aucoin would tally his thirteenth of the year on a powerplay before Brayden Watts would finish off a three-on-one rush for the Giants. The period would conclude with the absolutely classic Pacific Coliseum jumbotron reading 4-2 Giants after fourty, and Vancouver ahead 28-15 in shots. The Giants would head into the final frame sporting a 12-1-0 record this season when leading after two periods, while owning an 8-1-0 record when scoring four or more goals in a game.
Down by two to start the final frame the Americans would fail to find their legs in the opening minutes of the third, allowing the Giants to rack up several good chances against Americans’ goalie Beck Warm. After Vancouver would register its thirty-third shot on goal, Americans’ right-wing Sasha Mutala would head to the box for interference. Mutala, a hometown Vancouver product, is currently a B-Ranked prospect for Tri-City ahead of next spring’s NHL draft and has sixteen points in twenty-two games for the Americans this season.
After the Giants would negate their own powerplay, the two teams would skate four on four before returning to even strength just passed the mid-way mark of the period. Giants’ captain Jared Dmytriw would then get a fantastic chance to put the Giants up by three just minutes later, working his way free of coverage and breaking in alone on the Americans’ goal. However, a good back-check and an even better save by Beck Warm would keep the Americans within striking distance.
Tri-City would get their opportunity to climb back in the game with 3:19 left in the game after Davis Koch would head off for tripping, but some more strong penalty-killing would keep the Americans at bay. However, after Kaleb Bulych would clip Americans’ leading-scorer Nolan Yaremko with a high-stick, Tri-City would head to their second two-man advantage of the evening with just over two minutes left in regulation. On the ensuing 5-on-3 powerplay, Tri-City would put the puck on goal and crash the net, forcing David Tendeck to make two great goal-line stops. Tendeck would be slow to his feet after the play, but would stay in the game.
Giants’ star defenceman Bowen Byram would put the game officially out of reach with just over a minute left in the game, after Davis Koch would steal the puck at centre Byram would walk in alone with nothing but an empty net to shoot at. Making no mistake, Byram would put the Giants up 5-2 on his eighth goal of the season as Vancouver would hang on to win their return to the Pacific Coliseum by a final of 5-2 over the Tri-City Americans.
To this point in the season there have been very few teams that have been able to keep up with Vancouver when they start to move their feet in the offensive zone, something that was on display again on Saturday. Davis Koch continued his fantastic play as of late, picking up an assist on Bowen Byram’s EN goal to extend his point streak to eight games with Milos Roman and Dawson Holt would both record multi-point games. David Tendeck wasn’t overly busy in the Giants crease, but came up with several big when needed. Tendeck would turn aside twenty-four shots on the night for his tenth win of the season.
For Tri-City they would be unable to put together a full sixty minute effort against the Giants on Saturday night, allowing Vancouver to engage their relentless possession game and generate offense all night long. For periods of time in the second the Americans would begin to move their feet and get some great looks on the rush, but they would be unable to sustain their pressure against a Giants team super-charged by the Coliseum atmosphere.
Following Saturday night’s victory, Vancouver Giants coach Michael Dyck spoke about his team’s effort in their first of two back at the Pacific Coliseum.
“I liked our start. We know they played at home last night so we wanted to get them on their heels if we could,” said the Giants’ head coach. “I think we have to follow it up with another good start tomorrow and another sixty minutes.”
The Giants line of Owen Hardy, Jared Dmytriw and Dawson Holt was extremely effective again on Saturday night, owning both sides of the puck and battling hard each and every shift. As a line, the three would finished the night a combined +4. Coach Dyck then spoke about the trio’s recent impact.
“They do a lot of little things well. They battle hard, they play along the walls and they’re hard to play against.” said Dyck. “They’re becoming a really good two-way line for us.”
As a team that scores by committee, one of the Giants’ keys to success this season has been they’re ability to steadily roll four quality lines that are able to play in all situations. The Giants’ coach then spoke about the positives of having four lines that contribute offensively on any given night.
“It’s critical, especially playing four games in six nights.” said coach Dyck. “We rely on our depth, we don’t rely on one or two lines. Everybody does their job and that way we’re able to carry through.”
The Giants will be back at the Langley Events Centre on Sunday afternoon for a rematch with the Americans, looking to push their winning streak to six games before heading back to the Pacific Coliseum for next weekend’s game against the Victoria Royals. Saturday night’s attendance was 6,156.