We beat ourselves – that was the message from head coach Michael Dyck to his players following his Vancouver Giants’ 3-1 defeat at the hands of the Seattle Thunderbirds on Friday night at Langley Events Centre (LEC) in Western Hockey League action.
“We played way too slow, way too individualistic. We didn’t move the puck quick enough,” Dyck summed up afterwards.
Seattle improved to 2-0-0-0 while Vancouver fell to 2-1-0-0.
The teams were tied at one with just over three minutes to play but following a Giants turnover in the Seattle zone, the Thunderbirds took advantage on an odd-man rush with Matthew Wedman wiring a shot glove-side on David Tendeck for the game-winner. Nolan Volcan sealed it with an empty-net goal.
Dillon Hamaliuk struck for the game’s first goal late in the second period with Seattle on the man advantage. Simon Kubicek’s point shot took a big bounce off the end boards and Payton Mount was able to shovel the puck across the crease to Hamaliuk, who had the wide-open net to shoot at.
The score remained 1-0 until the midway point of the third period when James Malm stole the puck in the Seattle zone, cut across the ice and beat Liam Hughes with a spinning back-handed shot from outside the face-off circles. Hughes got a piece of the puck, but it was able to squeeze through the goaltender.
Bowen Byram liked some facets of his team’s game – such as when they were able to get the puck behind the Thunderbird defence and their puck pursuit – but there was just not enough of it.
“But sometimes we weren’t all on the same page and we paid for it,” he said. “We didn’t play the way we needed to play. We need to be a lot harder to play against, we need to finish checks.”
The Thunderbirds were excellent in clogging the front of their goal and getting sticks and bodies in the shooting lanes.
“I think if you move the puck quicker it opens up seams. They are a good team, they know what it takes to lock it down and get in lanes and they made it tough for us to get pucks through,” Dyck said.
“When we don’t get things going our way, we default to the way things went last year and overhandle pucks, don’t move them quick enough. And against a team like that, you have to play fast.”
“But again, I think if we play a little bit faster – and we will continue to show them the video and teach – we will get pucks through to the net and then we will be there to bury rebounds.”
For the Giants to find success, they are going to have to improve both their five-on-five play and their power play. Through three games, Vancouver has seven goals, but two of those were into an empty net. And their power play sits 19th in the league at 7.7 per cent (1-for-13).
“I think it is just a matter of over-handling the puck, skating into other players seams. We just have to move the puck,” Dyck said.
The Giants are back in action on Sunday when they host the Spokane Chiefs at LEC with a 4 p.m. puck drop. The Chiefs will be buoyed by the return of New Jersey Devils first round draft pick Ty Smith, who was sent back to his junior club this week. The defenceman had a strong pre-season with the Devils before he was sent back.
“He’s an elite player, big time character and a real smart player,” Dyck described of Smith, whom he has coached twice, both with Team Alberta and then the Youth Olympic Games. Smith was Dyck’s captain for the latter competition. “He doesn’t always have to be the play, but he makes plays.”
Byram, who has played with Smith and counts him as a friend, said the Giants obviously respect Smith, but also know if they follow their game plan, they should be able to prevail.
“He’s a good player, but at the same time, I don’t think one player can beat the Vancouver Giants when we play our way, the way we are supposed to play,” Byram said.
Vancouver played the majority of the game with five defenceman as Bailey Dhaliwal – who has had both his previous two seasons cut short by shoulder injury – was lost for the game in the first period to another shoulder injury.