Friday night at the Langley Events Centre, the Vancouver Giants dropped a hard-fought, dramatic 3-2 decision in overtime to the Kelowna Rockets.
A single point is all that the Giants require for a spot in the Western Hockey League playoffs.
The visiting Kelowna Rockets denied Vancouver the opportunity to outright clinch that spot in the Giants’ home regular season finale as Colton Dach scored at 1:12 of overtime for the victory.
Vancouver took a 2-1 lead at 39 seconds of the third period on a goal from captain Zack Ostapchuk before the Rockets’ Adam Kydd scored the equalizer with 6:33 to play.
Nolan Flamand scored for the Rockets in the opening frame while Fabian Lysell responded for the Giants in the second.
Both Kelowna goals came on the power play and the winning goal came after Lysell was denied in the opening seconds of overtime.
The Rockets were able to gather possession of the puck and after Will Gurski stopped their initial chance, Kelowna collected the rebound, was able to make a line change while maintaining possession and Dach buried the winner.
“Our five-on-five was good, and our power play scored us a big goal. We were happy with that, and I liked our goaltending: Will (Gurski) played really well tonight,” said Giants coach Michael Dyck.
Gurski finished with 40 saves, including three huge third-period saves with Vancouver nursing the one- goal lead.
“I liked our resilience after they got the 1-0 lead. I liked the way we played in the second period and for the most part, the entire hockey game,” Dyck said, with the only blemish being their discipline as the Giants took five minor penalties, three of which came in an eight-minute span in the third period with the team nursing a one-goal lead.
Final shots on goal were 43-29 for the Rockets with Gurski making 40 saves and his counterpart Talyn Boyko finishing with 27 saves.
Regardless of Saturday night’s result for the Giants, the team is guaranteed at least a play-in game to qualify for the playoffs.
Giants now find themselves locked in a four-team battle with the Prince George Cougars, Victoria Royals and Spokane Chiefs with only three remaining playoff spots in the Western Conference.
While a single point will clinch Vancouver one of the final three post-season berths, should Spokane defeat Victoria in overtime, all three teams (and potentially Prince George if they lose in regulation) would finish with 53 points.
A tiebreaker among the four teams would determine sixth and seventh place, while WHL rules stipulate the last berth cannot be determine via a tiebreaker and those two teams would have a play-in game to determine the eighth seed.
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