A spirited first period set the tone for the Vancouver Giants, who handed the Kelowna Rockets their first loss of the regular season Sunday.
Giants hosted Kelowna at Langley Events Centre, the team’s third game in less than 48 hours, with travel involved as well as they played in Langley on the Friday night, in Kamloops the next, and then back at LEC for the home game matinee.
Fifty-two minutes in penalties were handed out that first period, the bulk of those at the 20:00 mark. But rather than be intimidated by Kelowna’s game plan, the Giants used it to band together.
“Without Owen Hardy in the line-up, they were going to try and push us around and I liked how we responded,” said head coach Michael Dyck. “We took a step forward, we stuck together.
“I think our response set the tone for the second and third.”
Scoreless through 20 minutes against the Rockets, the Giants busted the game wide-open in the middle frame with back-to-back goals courtesy of Milos Roman and then another from Justin Sourdif.
Sourdif added an empty-net goal and both he and Roman are tied for the team lead with four goals through five games. Sourdif also has a team-best eight points for the 3-2-0-0 Giants.
The loss was Kelowna’s first regulation defeat this Western Hockey League season as they fell to 2-1-1-0.
“The second period we just continued to play fast. Using our speed and we did a good job in the neutral zone on both sides of the puck, defensively controlling the middle of the ice, we know how dangerous they are off the rush,” Dyck said, while adding that game plan offensively was to get pucks deep, apply pressure and play fast.
And the team was full marks for the victory, holding Kelowna to 14 shots on goal. Even more impressive was the fact the Rockets had six power-play opportunities in the game compared to Vancouver’s two, with the Giants converting on one of the chances, Roman’s second of the night.
Vancouver had won both games to open the season on the road in Prince George but fell 4-2 in their home opener and then 6-2 the following night in Kamloops.
Despite the lopsided score, it was a one-goal game heading into the third period before the Blazers scored four times in the final frame.
“Our work ethic last night was very good, and our work ethic again tonight was very good and that is going to be our foundation moving forward,” Dyck said.
Up next for the Giants is their annual Prairie road trip which sees them travel to Manitoba and Saskatchewan for six games in nine days from October 4 to 12.
Sourdif said last season the team made it a goal to never lose two games in a row, something which only happened four times last season (and only once went beyond two games).
“We weren’t going to let it slip, we weren’t going to be denied,” he said. “We really needed this win heading into the road trip just to gain confidence all around.”
Dylan Plouffe and Bowen Byram each had two assists in the game.
Goaltender David Tendeck made 14 saves for the shutout and through two games this season has a .500 goals against average and a .976 save percentage.
The Giants next home game is Saturday, October 19 against the Swift Current Broncos.
Photos courtesy of Rik Fedyck Vancouver Giants