Giants prevail in shootout against Pats to begin first win streak
Vancouver beats Regina 4-3 in front of 9,614 fans at Pacific Coliseum
There will likely come a point this year when the Vancouver Giants will miss the offence and dangling ability of Marek Tvrdon, their talented Slovakian who was ruled out for the season this week because of a blood clot in his shoulder.
Tvrdon is an east-west player and, without him, the Giants went north-south Friday against the Regina Pats in a 4-3 Western Hockey League shootout victory before an appreciative crowd of 9,614 at the Pacific Coliseum in Vancouver.
Perhaps the only solace in losing Tvrdon, a left-winger, is that he played a position that was coach Don Hay's strongest. The Giants' most experienced forwards, Kale Kessy and Trevor Cheek, are both left-wingers and they accounted for all three Vancouver goals prior to the shootout.
Kessy scored twice while Cheek had the other. Cheek also netted one in the skills show, although it was rookie Thomas Foster who netted the shootout winner in the seventh round. The victory was the Giants' second straight and represents their first winning streak of the season.
“We found a way to win and we're on a streak now,” said Hay, smiling. “It feels good.”
The 20-year-old Kessy arrived in Vancouver with a reputation as one of the WHL's most undisciplined players. His rap sheet was lengthy – seven suspensions – but he has behaved himself in Vancouver and has helped the Giants to a 5-4-0-0 record since joining their lineup. He was named first star Friday.
“I thought Kessy was our best player tonight and he's been really valuable to us,” Hay said. “His value is staying on the ice and he's done that. I know he's being watched but he's playing hard and doing a lot of good things. Our penalty kill has improved since he's been in our lineup. He's done everything we've asked of him.”
Kessy, a draft pick of the Phoenix Coyotes, was humble in victory.
“I couldn't ask for a better coach in Don Hay,” he said. “I think I've been very blessed to have both Don and Willie Desjardins (in Medicine Hat), arguably two of the best coaches in junior hockey. I'm just happy for the opportunity and trying to make the most of it.”
Rookie netminder Payton Lee stopped 25 shots in regulation and overtime and six more in the shootout to improve his record to 4-2-0-0. It wasn't without a struggle, though, as the Giants squandered 2-0 and 3-2 leads and surrendered the tying goal with 54 seconds left in regulation on the Pats' seventh power play of the night. Morgan Klimchuk netted the tying goal as the Giants frantically tried to run out the clock.
After a drab first half to the first period – five combined shots – things became a little more lively in the second half and led to the game's opening goal by Cheek. The 20-year-old forward began the play with a shot that produced a juicy rebound. Linemate Jackson Houck swiped a backhander at Pats starter Matt Hewitt that produced a second rebound and Cheek swept that one home on his backhand at the 16:01 mark.
The Giants then had to kill off a 5-on-3 Pats' power play for 1:05 as Kessy (goalie interference) and Cheek (hit from behind) took needless penalties. However, Hay's penalty kill unit got the job done, holding the Pats to just one shot and one post.
Kessy made it 2-0 Giants early in the second as he beat Hewitt off the rush but Vancouver squandered the lead before the middle period was out. Former Giant Lane Scheidl slid one past Lee during a 4-on-4 and then Langley's Kyle Burroughs tied it on a rebound with 1:59 remaining.
Cain Franson, who was expected back in the Giants' lineup after missing eight games with a head injury, suffered a “little bit of a setback” according to Hay and did not dress.
The Giants are on the road Saturday night in Everett and return to the Coliseum for a 4 p.m. start Sunday against the Saskatoon Blades. The Giants may not have to face Everett captain Ryan Murray, who was injured Friday (arm) in the Silvertips' 5-0 loss to the Victoria Cougars.
G-NOTES: The Portland Winterhawks' 12-game winning streak ended Friday in Kamloops as the Blazers knocked them off 6-4 ... Calgary Flames GM Jay Feaster attended Friday's game. Feaster selected Giants defenceman Brett Kulak in the fourth round (105th overall) in last June's NHL entry draft ... Former Giants captain Brendan Gallagher scored twice Friday for the Hamilton Bulldogs as his AHL team beat the Toronto Marlies 6-3. Gallagher has five goals on the season ... Vancouver Canuck scouts Ron Delorme and Harold Snepsts also took in the game.
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