It was a blueprint that worked the entire regular season, and it proved effective yet again in Game 1 of the Western Hockey League playoffs for the Vancouver Giants.
The Giants opened the Western Conference best-of-seven series against the Seattle Thunderbirds on Friday night at Langley Events Centre following the same recipe that propelled them to the top of the conference standings: a balanced offensive attack, superior special teams, a strong defensive game, and timely goaltending.
The result was a one-sided 7-1 victory.
Neither team scored in the opening 20 minutes, but goals in the first 1:43 of the middle stanza gave the Giants all the offence they needed on the night.
“Our first period was as good as I have seen us play, a microcosm of the year,” said Vancouver head coach Michael Dyck. “We were well prepared and the guys were excited to play and the first period allowed us to set the tone, to get them on their heels.”
On a power play to start the second period, Milos Roman opened the scoring at the 1:20 mark, taking a sweet feed from Jadon Joseph and beating Seattle’s Roddy Ross. And while the goal was being announced, Lukas Svejkovsky quickly made it 2-0 just 23 seconds later.
The T-Birds had a prime opportunity to get right back in the game, however, as they had back-to-back power plays, but during the latter of those penalties, Joseph intercepted the puck in the Seattle zone and after his initial attempt was stopped, he buried the rebound for a 3-0 lead.
Plouffe made it 4-0 before Seattle’s Andrej Kukuca beat Miner with less than three seconds to play in the period. But any life the Thunderbirds may have generated with that late goal, were soon squashed.
Dawson Holt made it 5-1 at 2:10 and Plouffe potted his second a couple of minutes later with Vancouver enjoying a two-man advantage and Bowen Byram rounded out the scoring at 6:41.
Plouffe – who now has goals in three straight games and points in eight of his past 10 – said the team was not deterred by their lack of results in the opening 20 minutes.
“We came out hard like we wanted to. We were positive and confident about coming out in the second and doing some more,” explained the game’s first star
Altogether, 11 of Vancouver’s 18 skaters had at least one point and even Miner got into the act with the secondary assist on the final goal. He also made 27 saves.
The goaltender credited his teammates for making his job easier with countless shot blocks.
“Overall, we were just good defensively. Guys were sacrificing (themselves) to get the game one win today,” he said.
Dyck said Miner came up big when the game was still scoreless and Seattle had a pair of first-period power plays.
“They generated some really good opportunities in the first period and when they did, Trent was there for us,” the coach said.
STORY CONTINUES BELOW
— xy – Vancouver Giants (@WHLGiants) March 23, 2019
The Giants went 2-for-7 with the man advantage, although the last of those power-play opportunities came with six seconds to play when Seattle’s Jake Lee was assessed a five-minute cross-checking major and game misconduct for a dirty hit on Justin Sourdif.
The teams split their season series with both teams winning twice, but Friday’s game one marked the first time in five games the home squad secured the victory.
Game two of the series goes Saturday night at LEC with a 7 p.m. puck drop.
JOIN THOSE CONGRATULATING THE TEAM
Shots: 15-6 Vancouver
VAN – 1:20 into the second period Milos Roman put the Giants up 1-0 when he finished off a slick three-way passing play with Davis Koch and Jadon Joseph.
VAN – 23 seconds later Lukas Svejkovsky increased Vancouver’s lead to 2-0 when his low shot from the high slot slipped through traffic and past Roddy Ross.
VAN – Jadon Joseph sent the LEC into a frenzy at 6:47 when he stripped defenceman Jake Lee, skated in alone shorthanded and tucked home his first of the post-season to make it 3-0.
VAN – Dylan Plouffe’s first of two on the night came at 16:57 when he one-timed a feed from Dawson Holt from the left-wing point. Kaleb Bulych had the second assist on the play.
SEA – The Thunderbirds lone goal came with three second left in the second period. Andrej Kukuca skated into the slot and one-timed home a feed from Matthew Wedman that came from the right-wing.
Shots: 13-11 Vancouver
VAN – Just 2:10 into the final period Dawson Holt extended Vancouver’s lead to 5-1 when he cut ot the front of the net and one-timed home a feed from Dallas Hines.
VAN – Then at 4:23 on a power play Dylan Plouffe roofed his second goal of the game from the right-wing circle to make it a 6-1 game. That spelled the end of the night for T-Birds starter Roddy Ross who was pulled for a second straight game against the Giants.
VAN – Bowen Byram rounded out the game’s scoring for the Giants at 6:41 off an odd-man rush. He cut into the slot and went upstairs over the glove of Cole Schwebius to give the Giants a 7-1 lead.
Shots: 12-11 Vancouver
BY THE NUMBERS
• Final score: Vancouver 7 – Seattle 1 (Giants lead best-of-seven series 1-0)
• Final shots: 40-28 Vancouver
• Trent Miner: 27/28 saves for Vancouver (1-0)
• Roddy Ross: 25/31 saves for Seattle (0-1)
• Cole Schwebius: 8/9 saves for Seattle
• Vancouver: 2/7 on the power play
• Seattle: 0/7 on the power play
• 3 Stars: 1) Dylan Plouffe (VAN – 2G, 1A); 2) Jadon Joseph (VAN – 1G, 1A); 3) Dawson Holt (VAN – 1G, 1A)
— The WHL (@TheWHL) March 23, 2019
• 11 different Giants secured at least one point on Friday night.
• The last time the Giants scored seven goals in a playoff game was March 24, 2012 in Game 2 against Spokane. The Giants won that game 7-3.
• Seattle Thunderbirds defenceman Jake Lee was given a five-minute major and a game-misconduct with six seconds remaining in the third period after he cross-checked Justin Sourdif into the Seattle net when he was on a breakaway.