VANCOUVER - It's been a nightmare season so far for the Vancouver Giants and netminder Liam Liston but it hasn't stopped the latter from dreaming large.
Liston, 19, is 1-8-0-0 with a 4.42 goals against average and .837 save percentage, wretched numbers by anyone's standards. He also missed the month of November with an ankle injury and appears to have lost the No. 1 job to 16-year-old rookie Payton Lee.
Believe it or not, Liston thinks the last-place G-Men (7-20-0-0) can still turn it around. He thinks this because he went through a similar experience two years ago in Brandon.
“I've been through this exact same situation before,” he said Tuesday as the Giants prepped for Wednesday's road outing against the Victoria Royals. “When I was a 17-year-old, we had a young team in Brandon and we went through nine and 12-game losing streaks before Christmas. Then we ended up finishing over .500 so it can be done.”
The Giants are currently on a seven-game losing streak. Their most recent defeat Saturday was a dagger to the heart when they surrendered a shorthanded game-winning breakaway goal to Tri-City's Beau McCue with 5.9 seconds remaining in regulation. Liston was between the pipes for that one, his first start since rolling his ankle Nov. 1 in Medicine Hat.
“At some point, you have to hope the bad luck runs out because it seems right now when it rains it pours,” Liston shrugged. “It seems everything the Giants skated by in the last couple of years has descended upon us now. But the best part of the year is going to be when we fly under the radar, everybody forgets about us and we turn this thing around. People are going to be surprised where we are at the end of the year.”
(If the Giants don't turn it around, they will pick at the top of the 2013 bantam draft and have a crack at Edmonton's Tyler Benson who, at last count, had 82 points in 17 games. But we digress.)
Liston, meanwhile, doesn't intend to dwell on his poor start as a Giant. It began with an opening-night loss to the Royals when he mishandled the puck off the stanchion and was beaten on the first shot he faced. It took him more than a month to win a game as he finally triumphed Oct. 30 in Lethbridge. In his next outing, he rolled the ankle and was out.
“It ended up being just over a month from start to finish with the injury,” he said. “I always thought I was going to be ready to go the next day. But I'm glad I took the right amount of time because I wasn't cautious about it at all when I jumped back in the lineup. It was a good sign for me and for us as a team.”
Liston is not scheduled to start in Victoria but will almost certainly see action on the weekend when the Giants play a three-in-three against Swift Current (home), Everett (road) and Kamloops (home).
The Giants are still carrying three goalies – rookie Tyler Fuhr is the other – and something will have to give eventually. Head coach Don Hay says he plans to keep all three until January as Lee will miss games over the Christmas holidays while playing for Team Pacific in the world under-17 challenge.
“Once the cutdown date comes about in early January, we'll look at placing one of them in Tier Two,” Hay explained.
G-NOTES: Forward Cain Franson will again play centre against Victoria on a line with wingers Kale Kessy and Jackson Houck. Franson has been primarily a left winger since joining the Giants two seasons ago. “It's more responsibility but I feel I can handle the down-low defensive coverage,” he said... Centre Anthony Ast, 17, and defenceman Reid Zalitach, 16, will miss the Victoria game due to sickness.
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