Vancouver Giants have lost just seven games on home ice in regulation all season long, but three of those losses have come at the hands of one foe: the Seattle Thunderbirds.
The Thunderbirds scored a 4-1 Game 2 victory on Saturday night at Langley Events Centre (LEC), evening the Western Hockey League best-of-seven series at one game apiece and taking away home-ice advantage from the Giants in the process.
Twenty-four hours earlier, the Giants had skated to a relatively easy 7-1 victory, showing just why they were the top team in the Western Conference during the regular season, one which went 26-6-1-1 (.794) at LEC, the second-best home-ice mark in the entire WHL.
The good news is the Giants were also one of the WHL’s top road teams during the regular season, going an impressive 22-9-2-1 as the visitors, a .691 winning percentage, which was tied for fifth in the league.
That road record will be tested with Games 3 and 4 in Seattle on Tuesday and Wednesday, before the series returns to Langley Events Centre for Game 5 on Friday at 7:30 p.m.
“We got outworked tonight, it is as simple as that,” said Giants captain Jared Dmytriw. “It was the exact opposite of last night. (Seattle) got motivated and came at us tonight and we weren’t prepared and that’s unacceptable in the playoffs.”
“We knew the series was going to be tough but from night to night, you have to bring the same effort. We didn’t tonight and that is something we have to learn from.”
Sean Richards opened the scoring less than five minutes into the game, scoring on a bad angle from the goal-line as he roofed a quick shot over Trent Miner’s shoulder and in. Just over 10 minutes later, Simon Kubicek beat Miner with a wrist shot from the point with traffic in front of the Giants goal on a power-play. Vancouver did get one back when Jadon Joseph redirected a pass from Milos Roman on a power-play of their own to cut the deficit to one after 20 minutes.
Neither team scored in the middle frame and Vancouver nearly pulled even less than four minutes into the third period on a 3-on-1 rush but Seattle’s Zachary Ashton (who drew into the line-up with Jake Lee’s suspension) dove to the ice and deflected the puck, thwarting the Giants opportunity. And less than one minute later, the T-Birds capitalized on a partial two-on-one break with Andrej Kukuca snapping a shot blocker-side on Miner. With Miner on the bench for an extra attacker, Nolan Volcan scored into the empty net.
Giants head coach Michael Dyck said the team knew Seattle would give a much better effort in game two and they failed to respond properly.
“I didn’t think we worked very smart today and execute as well as they did. I thought (Seattle) played a better team game than we did and played a lot smarter than we did,” he said. “They came hard … we knew they would. This is the Seattle Thunderbirds we prepared for and it is going to be the Seattle Thunderbirds we have to get ready for on Tuesday.”
Vancouver fired 40 shots on Seattle goaltender Roddy Ross compared to the 28 attempts by the Thunderbirds, but too many were from the perimeter or without enough bodies making things difficult for the Thunderbirds goalie who entered the contest with a .771 save percentage in two career starts against Vancouver, neither of which he finished.
“He is a good goalie, he is going to stop what he sees, but if you get shots with bodies in front of the net, they are going to struggle,” Dmytriw said of the 18-year-old who is in his first WHL season and has just 27 games under his belt at this level. “We have to stop playing on the perimeter and get in the dirty areas.”
Vancouver now prepares for Games 3 and 4 in a hostile environment. Neither coach nor captain anticipates the team having a problem readying for the challenge of playing in front of a crowd which has tasted playoff success with the T-Birds winning the WHL crown just two seasons ago.
“If you are not up for a game like Tuesday, you are in the wrong profession, you are playing the wrong sport. This time of year is the most exciting time to play and it is unacceptable for us to put up a performance like that after the way we played last night and not be able to follow it up,” Dmytriw said.
“We need to come with a better effort. We have all year, and I am confident we will again,” Dyck said.
Next game at the Langley Events Centre on Friday. Tickets are available here.
NEXT GIANTS HOME GAME: Friday, March 29th (Game #5)
⌚️: 7:30 PM
🎟️ (Tickets): https://t.co/QigpMz0oYK
— xy – Vancouver Giants (@WHLGiants) March 24, 2019
SEA – Sean Richards opened the scoring for Seattle at 4:38 when his shot from the left-wing snuck past the glove of Trent Miner.Jaxan Kaluski and Simon Kubicek earned assists.
SEA – Then at 15:09 the T-Birds took a 2-0 lead when Simon Kubicek blasted home his first of the playoffs off a shot from the point on the power play. Sean Richards and Nolan Volcan assisted on the first power play goal of the series for the T-Birds.
VAN – Back came the Giants on a power play of their own. Jadon Joseph parked himself in front of the Thunderbirds goal and redirected home a feed from Milos Roman at 18:10 to secure his second goal of the playoffs. Davis Koch had the second assist.
Shots: 12-8 Vancouver
Shots: 11-9 Vancouver
SEA – 4:33 into the final period Seattle extended their lead to 3-1 when Andrej Kukuca raced down the right-wing and placed a perfect shot past the stick of Miner and in for his second of the series.
SEA – Nolan Volcan ended all hopes of a Vancouver comeback at 17:58 when he potted his first of the playoffs into an empty net.
Shots: 17-11 Vancouver
Series is now a best of 5. pic.twitter.com/WbJPMm156u
— xy – Vancouver Giants (@WHLGiants) March 24, 2019
BY THE NUMBERS
• Final score: Seattle 4 – Vancouver 1 (Series Tied: 1-1)
• Final shots: 40-28 Vancouver
• Trent Miner: 24/27 saves for Vancouver (1-1)
• Roddy Ross: 39/40 saves for Seattle (1-1)
• Vancouver: 1/4 on the power play
• Seattle: 1/2 on the power play
• 3 Stars: 1) Andrej Kukuca (SEA – 1G); 2) Roddy Ross (SEA – 39 Saves); 3) Jadon Joseph (VAN – 1G)
• Dating back to the regular season, Jadon Joseph has now scored goals in three straight games for the Vancouver Giants.
• For a second straight game the Giants outshot the Seattle Thunderbirds by the exact same 40-28 margin.
• Giants forward Justin Sourdif did not play in Game #2. He was injured after he was crosschecked into the Seattle net in the final seconds of Game #1 by T-Birds defenceman Jake Lee. Lee also did not play in Game #2 as he served the first game of a suspension that’s full length has still yet to be finalized by the WHL.
• Giants were 2-0 during the regular season at ShoWare Center posting victories of 4-2 (Nov. 21) and 5-1 (March 12).
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