Story and Photos by Alex Rodgerson/ISN
The Vancouver Giants tasted their first defeat of the 2018/2019 regular season on Friday night, falling to the Seattle Thunderbirds by a final of 3-1 at the Langley Events Centre. After back-to-back victories over Everett to start the season Vancouver’s offence was quiet on Friday night, and despite holding a strong advantage in time on attack the Giants were held to just a single goal against Thunderbirds’ goaltender Liam Hughes. Seattle on the other hand made the most of their opportunities, taking advantage of a pinching Vancouver defence to capitalize on several odd man rush situations while improving their record to 2-0.
Just over a minute into the game Calgary Flames draft-pick Milos Roman would step into the offensive zone and crank Seattle’s Dillon Hamaliuk to the ice, leading to some unhappy Thunderbirds and an rise in temperature early on. Roman, who has yet to find the scoresheet through Vancouver’s first two games, would show great jump early on. Seattle would get the games first good scoring chance at the 5:00 mark when Giants forward Owen Hardy would give the puck away in the offensive zone, leading to Armstrong B.C.’s Zack Andrusiak taking it back the other way on a two-on-one. Andrusiak, who had three points in Seattle’s season opening victory a few nights ago, would have his cross ice pass thwarted by Giants’ defenceman Dylan Plouffe, who would come back to slide and break up the play.
As the period would continue Giants’ rookie Lukas Svejkovsky and Milos Roman would begin to show some chemistry, skating well in the Seattle zone and getting a couple of quick one-timers away on Seattle goaltender and Kelowna native Liam Hughes. Seattle’s best opportunity of the period would come when mobile defenceman Simon Kubicek would jump into the rush and snap a high shot on David Tendeck, forcing him to make a quick shoulder save. Both teams would struggle to generate good opportunities at the net in the early going. An early cause for concern for Seatte would be their multiple neutral zone giveaways, leading to odd man rushes for Vancouver and their first powerplay of the game.
On the ensuing powerplay the Giants would struggle to find any room down low, but would manage to find opportunities in the high slot. Seattle would kill off the penalty but another giveaway would lead to the Giants continuing their attack. This would lead to Dawson Holt setting up Owen Hardy in the slot, only for the Nanaimo-born Hardy to draw iron on the quick snapshot. This would be the best opportunity of the period for the Giants, leading in shots 10-9 after twenty minutes.
The Giants would begin the second period logging several straight minutes in the attacking zone, with play-making defenceman Bowen Byram taking advantage of a Seattle group that would constantly get bunched up beneath the goal line. The Giants would be unable to break the scoreless tie, but would continue to pressure the Thunderbirds in their own zone and remain uncontested when working a high-point attack. In a game that would see very little physicality from either team, Thunderbirds Cade McNelly would do his best to earn some momentum for his team by laying a big hit of his own midway through the frame. At the 9:06 mark the game would begin to develop a faster pace, with both teams heading east to west several times and with Giants’ David Tendeck making a couple great kick saves.
The Giants would see their best chance of the period come with 5:06 left in the period when Cyle McNabb would cut across the slot before finding Import rookie Yannik Valenti, who would pull the puck onto his backhand before finding the post. On the rebound, McNabb would be absolutely robbed by the goaltender Hughes, who would dive across his net for the massive desperation save. Though both goalies would be busier in the second frame, Liam Hughes would face the better opportunities and refuse to relent. The Giants would then kill off another Seattle powerplay late in the period after Milos Roman would be called for a kneeing penalty.
Seattle would finally break the ice with 1:31 remaining in the period, with a lively shot off the back boards bouncing right in front of the net to Seattle rookie Payton Mount, who’s initial shot would be stopped before Dillon Hamaliuk would cash in on the rebound. For Hamaliuk it would be his fourth point in just his second game of the season, while for Victoria-born forward Payton Mount, his first point of the season. Giants would outshoot the T-Birds 12-11 in the period for a 22-20 lead overall, but would trail where it counts as Seattle would take a 1-0 lead into the third period.
Seattle would start the final frame on a brief powerplay looking to extend their lead, however the Giants would kill the remainder of the minor penalty before getting back on the attack. Just moments later after another turnover at the Thunderbirds blue-line, Milos Roman would walk in on semi breakaway before having his shot kicked away by the agile Hughes, making one of his 31 saves on the night. With the Giants zero-for-three with the man advantage at this point in the game, Vancouver would hope to get more traffic in front of Liam Hughes on their fourth powerplay of the game. After Seattle would manage to kill off the powerplay, the Giants would finally get one passed the Seattle goaltender when James Malm would enter the Thunderbirds zone, and let go a spin-o-rama backhander that would fool Hughes to knot the game up 1-1. This would be a soft one for the 1999 born goalie, who had played an excellent game up until this point.
One of the problems for the Giants throughout Friday night’s game was there would be many occasions where their defencemen would jump up into the play without a forward covering for them. This would lead to several two-on-one situations throughout the game, including what would end up being the game-winner as Dillon Hamaliuk and Matthew Wedman would break in two-on-one late in the game with Wedman snapping a shot just under the bar. Seattle would add an empty-netter and take this one by a final of 3-1.
Seattle rookie Payton Mount from Victoria, B.C. had the first multi-point game of his career, registering two assists against Vancouver. Though just having played six games for Seattle last season, Mount now enters his first full season with the Thunderbirds where he is expected to be an impact player. One of his strongest attributes is his skating ability, and how fast he’s able to accelerate up ice.
For the Giants, Milos Roman played a strong game despite failing to find the scoresheet for the third straight time. Roman was noticeable every time he was on the ice, using his strength in the offensive zone to create a lot of chances. It’ll be just a matter of time before the puck starts to go in for the skilled Slovakian.
Next up for the Giants is a Sunday afternoon match-up with the Spokane Chiefs.
Tonight’s ISN Scouting Report:
Vancouver Giants – F Lukas Svejkovsky
Good puck protection and strong on his skates, always looking to make a play on offence and doesn’t take a shift off. Makes clean, smart passes.
Seattle Thunderbirds – D Simon Kubicek
-Good skater with solid vision from the blue line, makes great decisions with the puck and is Seattle’s best all-round defenceman.