The Vancouver Giants were in position this weekend to potentially clinch a spot in the Western Hockey League playoffs this weekend but following a loss Saturday night, the team has seen its slim lead decrease to three points.
Facing the Spokane Chiefs on Saturday night in Langley Events Centre, the Giants had a near-perfect first period as they led 2-0 thanks to a pair of goals from Jaden Lipinski. But the Chiefs would score five unanswered goals – twice in the middle frame and then three more times in the third – to earn the 5-2 victory.
The win improves Spokane to 21-37-4-1 and 47 points as the Chiefs sit in ninth place in the WHL’s Western Conference while Vancouver saw its record drop to 23-34-4-0 and 50 points, which has them in sixth place with seven games remaining in the regular season.
The two teams are back on the ice at Langley Events Centre on Sunday afternoon (4:00pm).“We turned the puck over way too much (and) we went away from what we were doing well in the first period,” said Giants coach Michael Dyck. “These guys know what is on the line; we just have to be better. We have to play like we did in the first period (but) for 60 minutes.”
While the Giants still control their own fate by virtue of the fact they have more games remaining than the teams they are battling with, they do have a tough closing schedule as they try and hold off one of Victoria (50 points, four games remaining), Prince George (47 points, six games) and Spokane (47 points,five games).
After Sunday’s game against the Chiefs, Vancouver faces Kelowna three times and Kamloops and Portland once each. All three teams of those opponents are 30+ points ahead of the Giants in the standings.
Saturday’s contest saw Vancouver allow 45 shots on goal; the 13th time this season the opposition has fired at least 40 shots on the Vancouver goaltender. Following the first period – when the shots were 20-18 Vancouver and the score 2-0 – the Chiefs took
control of the game with a dominant second period that saw them outshoot the Giants 15-5 and score the only two goals of the frame with Chase Bertholet and Ty Cheveldayoff each beating Connor Martin.
Nick McCarry’s power-play goal 4:03 into the third gave the Chiefs the lead for good with Cheveldayoff adding an insurance marker with under three minutes to play before Graham Sward scored into the empty net.
Shots on goal in the third period saw each team fire 12 on the opposing goaltender with
Spokane’s Mason Beaupit earning the game’s third star following his 35-save performance.
“Marty (Connor Martin) gave us a chance; he made some great saves for us. Their goaltender settled in after the first period and made some saves for them. I thought we could have tested him more in the second and third,” Dyck said.