by Troy Landreville
The Vancouver Giants honoured a hockey legend Thursday night at the Langley Events Centre.
On Legends Night, the G-Men wore sharp-looking dark blue jerseys adorned with a single, large, green clover in honour of their late co-owner Pat Quinn.
An established NHL player, coach, and general manager during an NHL career that spanned nearly five decades, Quinn passed away Nov. 23, 2014.
During a pre-game ceremony that paid homage to a man who in many aspects was larger than life, Vancouver Canucks retired greats including goaltenders Kirk McLean and Glen Hanlon (who is the Giants’ general manager), winger Cliff Ronning, and the first captain in Canucks’ history, Orland Kurtenbach, took part in a ceremonial opening puck drop.
Quinn, who will be inducted into the Hockey Hall Of Fame this weekend, coached Ronning and McLean during the Canucks’ historic run to the Stanley Cup Final in the spring of 1994.
On the ice, the Giants had their hands full with the nation’s third-ranked major junior team, the Prince George Cougars who entered the game with a Western Hockey League-best 14-3-2 record.
And after the final buzzer sounded, the Giants prevailed 4-2. They stood together just inside their own blueline and collectively looked skyward and raised their sticks to their heavens – a fitting salute to the “Mighty Quinn.”
It was the Giants second consecutive home win and improved their record to 9-11.
Giants head coach Jason McKee was happy with his team’s effort.
“We wanted to play hard,” McKee said. “Obviously they [the Cougars] are a very good team coming in and we struggled to put two wins together against good teams, and we were able to do that.”
McKee said one thing the Giants can control is their work ethic and they delivered against the Cougars.
“We competed well tonight,” he said.
The Giants opened the scoring with 5:34 to go in the opening period.
Giants captain Tyler Benson flipped a backhand pass to James Malm along the sideboards.
After collecting the pass, Malm wristed the puck which managed to sift through Cougars goaltender Nick McBride before slowly trickling over the goal line.
Prince George tied the score 3:27 later on a hard snap shot off the stick of Brad Morrison, who converted a nifty give-and-go with linemate Jansen Harkins.
The Cougars moved ahead 2-1 when a point shot by Cougars defenceman Cole Moberg skipped past Giants goalie Ryan Kubic’s glove.
The shifty Malm, who was playing arguably his best game of the season, tied the game at two goals apiece.
He snapped home his second of the night after juicy rebound rolled to him off from a Alec Baer shot.
The Giants looked like they had jumped ahead 3-2 early in the third period but the goal was waved off because of incidental contact on McBride.
A second Giants goal of the period was initially called off because it was deemed that Vancouver forward Dawson Holt had knocked the puck into the net with a high stick. But after video review, the goal was awarded to the Giants, and the crowd roared its approval.
The Giants added insurance at the 8:46 mark of the third. Radovan Bondra muscled a puck that was lying in the crease into the net for his 12th of the season, after Thomas Foster nearly beat McBride on a wrist shot.
McKee said the Giants are starting to show some growth. “I think earlier in the year when we got down 2-1, we might have maybe strayed away from what we were trying to do, and take too many chances. Then you’re down 3-1, 4-1, but tonight we stuck with it and stayed with the game plan and started to shoot the puck more in the second half of the game, and got rewarded for it.”
The players’ confidence is building, McKee said. “There’s a lot of trust starting to build in the room and I think that’s what you need. You’ve got to trust your teammates. I liked again that we were able to roll our four lines and six D’s. Everyone was a part of it and when that’s happening, we’re a team that can compete every night.”
A decent sized Thursday night audience of 3,383 took in the game.