A big night from Brayden Watts helped the Langley-based Vancouver Giants snatch victory from what seemed to be a second-consecutive defeat.
Watts scored with 44.9 seconds on the clock to force overtime and then bagged the shootout winner in come-from-behind 5-4 win over the Spokane Chiefs on Sunday at Langley Events Centre.
It was a game the Giants never led as they were down 2-1 after one period and 4-3 after 40 minutes.
But after Vancouver’s Davis Koch and Spokane’s Eli Zummack traded shootout goals, an additional round was needed, and Watts made no mistake, skating down the centre of the ice and firing the puck glove-side past Dawson Weatherill. Carter Chorney had a chance to extend the game but his deke dribbled wide of goaltender David Tendeck.
Watts finished with a goal and two assists, his first points of the season, as Vancouver improved to 3-1-0-0 while Spokane – playing their third game in three cities in less than 48 hours – fell to 2-1-0-1 on the Western Hockey League season.
Vancouver was coming off a disappointing 3-1 home-ice loss two nights earlier against Seattle, with an effort that left head coach Michael Dyck wanting more from his players. And they delivered that on Sunday.
“We took a step forward today. It was one we really like because it wasn’t easy,” the coach said. “We were playing from behind (and) it seemed every time we took a step forward, they would get a bounce and we would find ourselves behind (again). But we never quit.”
The Giants had a great start to the game, generating the first few chances but it was Spokane opening the scoring – on their first shot of the game as well – as Bobby Russell’s shot snuck past Tendeck 3:42 into the contest. Just over seven minutes later, after Owen Hardy hit iron at one end of the ice, the Chiefs went down and Adam Beckman made it 2-0.
James Malm cut the lead in half, firing home his fourth of the season from the slot, a few seconds after a Giants power play ended.
Beckman restored the two-goal lead midway through the second but Bowen Byram – off a great feed from Watts – made it 3-2 and three minutes later, Kaleb Bulych scored from a bad angle to knot the score at three.
Byram and Bulych’s goals were the first from Giant defencemen this season. But in the final minute of the frame, Jack Finley gave the visitors the advantage back when his shot from just inside the blue-line eluded Tendeck.
Dyck said the credit for the tying goal goes to the players.
“We just made a real good play using the back of the net and then finding Watty in the slot,” he said.
The points from Watts, Milos Roman (two assists) and Byram (one goal, one assist) were the first of the season for the quartet and provided some much-needed secondary scoring for a team which entered the game with just seven goals in three contests, with two of those into an empty-net.
“We have been having a little bit of trouble putting the puck in the net, so hopefully we broke the seal tonight,” Watts said.
The winger was happier with the fact the team got the win, compared to him finding the scoresheet, however.
“It shows a lot about our character, that we fought back and it was a good way to win tonight.”
Up next for the Giants is a three-game road trip, starting in Kelowna on Wednesday (Oct. 3) and then finishing with a pair of games in Prince George on Friday and Saturday.
The Giants power play went scoreless in their only opportunity but did score seconds after it expired. For the season, the team has just one goal in 14 chances (7.1 per cent). And Dyck was happy with what he saw, calling it the best the coaching staff has seen through the four games.
Final shots on goal were 27-24 for Vancouver and combined with the fact they outshot Seattle on Friday 32-28, that was another positive to the coach.
“Two hockey games against two good teams and we held them to under 30 shots. That’s a big positive for us as well,” concluded the coach.