If Wednesday showed us anything about the Vancouver Giants, it's that they can't quit, and, for great stretches, they also can't check.
Vancouver put together a spirited comeback against a gifted Portland Winterhawk side Wednesday at the Pacific Coliseum, only to fall 4-3 before the crowd of 4,823. Coach Don Hay still had one of his longer post-game chats of his tenure with his troops, and a second period where Vancouver was nearly odd-man rushed into oblivion was undoubtedly a major topic.
“Competing and checking...that's what our mainstays are,” Hay told the media afterwards. “If you feel sorry for yourself and don't want to check, the other team is going to take advantage of you.
“We have to realize how we can have success, and that's playing better as a group and playing the Vancouver Giants way...not other ways.”
It was a odd night. Vancouver (1-3-0-0) had some jump early, buoyed by a David Musil blast from the point left nothing more than a vapor trail on its way to beating Keith Hamilton at 2:16.
Portland (2-1-0-0) dominated the second, highlighted by two breakaway goals by Brad Ross—– one on a backhander high to the glove side on Mark Segal and one on a snap shot upstairs blocker side. At times they seemed to be toying with Vancouver's inexperienced blueline corps, on the way to a 4-1 cushion.
They couldn't get that knockout blow, and Vancouver found its giddy-up again when Neil Manning tallied from point on a power play at 10:52.
The Giants made it 4-3 at 19:25 when Brendan Gallagher tallied in a scramble, and there was a furious final 35 seconds. There's some dispute over that number, since the clock at the Coliseum conked out and left the penalty box staff to handle proceedings with a stopwatch. A whistle blew with supposedly five seconds remaining and Vancouver newcomer Randy McNaught squared off with Portland's Brett Ponich in what was the second heavyweight bout of the evening for McNaught.
After that was cleared, referees Brett Iverson and Jeff Ingram called the game, Portland darted off the ice and Vancouver complained, saying that they were told that there still five seconds left on the stop watch. Vancouver general manager Scott Bonner said that the Giants didn't plan to protest to the league.
For the final three minutes or so, Vancouver used forwards Craig Cunningham and James Henry on the blueline, an obvious show that Hay isn't happy with how the team was moving the puck. With Tanner Sohn (knee) and Tyler Hart (ankle) recently hurt, Vancouver had to use call-up Brett Kulak to fill out their defence.
To put Vancouver's inexperience back there in perspective, their six blueliners last night had 281 WHL games combined going into this season. Portland's top six from last night came into this year with 522.
“I really liked our start and I liked our third period,” said Hay. “I thought we dug in and did some decent things. I thought in the second period, when a couple of things went wrong, it multiplied into four things.”
Ty Rattie and Spencer Bennett had the other goals for Portland. Hamilton made 36 saves. Segal made 23 for Vancouver.
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