In front of the largest home crowd of the season (4,917) Friday night, the Vancouver Giants earned their seventh consecutive victory in the 2019 WHL playoffs.
Friday night at the Langley Events Centre (LEC), the G-Men beat the Spokane Chiefs.
The best way to combat a lethal power play that is scoring on nearly half their man-advantage chances? Don’t give the other team opportunities.
And while the Vancouver Giants didn’t quite play penalty free, they did limit the Chiefs to just two power-play chances in game one of the WHL’s Western Conference Championship best-of-seven series on Friday night at LEC in front of a capacity crowd – the biggest audience in the team’s three seasons at the facility.
And the crowd went home happy as Vancouver prevailed 4-1 to take the early 1-0 series lead.
The Chiefs entered the series connecting on 48 per cent of their chances, but Vancouver only allowed two man-advantage chances (the second of those came with 80 seconds to play and the Giants up by three.
“The whole key for us is walking that line between being physical and playing intense and playing on our toes and not crossing the line and taking stupid penalties,” said Giants coach Michael Dyck.
“There are some penalties that you can’t avoid but I thought we did a good job of not taking and hooking penalties or offensive zone penalties,” he added. “We were physical, but we were smart.”
While Spokane entered the game with the No. 1 ranked power play and second-best penalty kill (85.7 per cent), it was the Giants man-advantage which opened the scoring.
Clicking at an impressive 33.3 per cent success rate (second among the 16 playoff teams), Lukas Svejkovsky opened the scoring at the 6:25 mark, firing a shot through traffic to beat Spokane goaltender Bailey Brkin high and to the blocker side.
RECAP: The Vancouver Giants secured a 4-1 victory over the Spokane Chiefs in Game 1 of the @TheWHL Western Conference Final in front of 4900-plus Friday night at the @LangleyEvents. @owenhardy1313 had a goal and two assists.
More 📎: https://t.co/6eoVLkS0Ru
— xy – Vancouver Giants (@WHLGiants) April 20, 2019
Less than two minutes later, the score was 2-0 with Owen Hardy winning a battle for the puck on the forecheck and after Brkin stopped his chance, Dawson Holt found the rebound and scored on the back-hand.
Vancouver made it 3-0 less than a minute into the middle frame. Jared Dmytriw’s pass sprung Holt and Hardy on a two-on-one with Holt sliding the puck across to Hardy and the rugged winger scoring his fourth in the past three games.
Spokane got on the board at 5:30 of the second period as the puck took a weird bounce off the end boards and Adam Beckman took advantage, rifling home a shot into the empty net before Tendeck could get back in goal.
The lone goal of the final frame was an empty-net marker from Bowen Byram.
“Outside of a bad bounce, he was near perfect,” Dyck said of his goaltender.
“He bailed us out a few times when Spokane got the momentum.”
And with stellar goaltending and superior special teams, the other key factor was the Giants shutdown trio of Dmytriw, Holt and Hardy who spent much of the night matched up against the Spokane trio of Jaret Anderson-Dolan, Luke Toporowski and Eli Zummack.
The Chiefs big three entered the game with a combined 11 goals and 25 points through the opening two rounds. But on this night, it was the Giants trio who held their opponents off the scoresheet while registering two goals and four assists and finishing a combined +8.
“They do such a good job on the forecheck. They were physical, they did a good job of playing against Anderson-Dolan who has been the catalyst for that team,” Dyck said of his line.
“We don’t even look at as being a shutdown line. We don’t care who we are against, we just want to go outwork them to the best of our ability,” said Hardy, who was the game’s second star with a goal and two assists.
Game two of the series goes Saturday night again at Langley Events Centre. Puck drop is 7 p.m.
WATCH MORE HIGHLIGHTS
VAN – Lukas Svejkovsky (4) got the Giants on the board with a power play marker at 6:25. His shot from the top of the right-wing circle made its way through traffic and past Brkin to put the G-Men on the board. Dylan Plouffe and Tristen Nielsen earned assists.
VAN – Just over two minutes later at 8:37, Dawson Holt (3) padded the Giants lead to 2-0 when he pounced on an Owen Hardy rebound and lifted a backhand shot over Brkin’s stick. Hardy started the play by throwing a hard check on the Spokane defender at the side of the Chiefs goal.
Shots: 11-10 Spokane
VAN – 57 seconds into the middle frame, Owen Hardy (4) extended his goal-scoring streak to three straight games when he one-timed home a feed from Dawson Holt off the rush. Jared Dmytriw added the second assist to give the Giants a 3-0 cushion.
SPO – The lone goal of the night for Spokane came at 5:30 when they caught a huge break off a dump-in. Ethan McIndoe started the play when he shot the puck into the Giants zone along the right-wing boards. David Tendeck left the net to try and slow the puck down behind the goal, but instead of arriving there, it took an unexpected bounce, deflected off the Giants goal-post and right to Adam Beckman who potted it home for his sixth of the playoffs.
Shots: 12-10 Vancouver
VAN – Bowen Byram ended all hopes of a Spokane comeback at 18:06 when he placed his fifth of the post-season into the empty net to make it a 4-1 game. Owen Hardy had the lone assist on the goal giving him three points on the night.
Shots: 11-8 Spokane
BY THE NUMBERS
• Final score: Vancouver 4 – Spokane 1
• Final shots: 31-30 Spokane
• David Tendeck: 30/31 saves for Vancouver (6-1)
• Bailey Brkin: 26/29 saves for Spokane (10-3)
• Giants power plays: 1/2
• Chiefs power plays: 0/1
• 3 Stars: 1) David Tendeck (VAN – 30 saves); 2) Owen Hardy (VAN – 1G, 2A); and 3) Jaret Anderson-Dolan (SPO – 2SOG)
— The WHL (@TheWHL) April 20, 2019
• Vancouver Giants have now won seven straight games in the 2019 WHL playoffs.
• Owen Hardy has scored in three consecutive games for the Giants and has four goals and three assists for seven points in that span.
• David Tendeck has surrendered just one goal against in each of his past four starts. He’s now 5-1 in the playoffs with a .923 save percentage and a 1.99 goals-against-average.
• Bowen Byram and Hardy are now tied for the WHL lead in playoff plus-minus with a +12 rating.