The Vancouver Giants received a glimpse Wednesday of what awaits them if they continue to reside at the bottom of the Western Hockey League standings.
Four seasons ago, the Moose Jaw Warriors had a dreadful 41-point campaign and were able to select defenceman Morgan Rielly with the second overall pick in the 2009 bantam draft. The West Vancouver native, now 18, has developed into an elite, creative, game-breaking player, something the Giants sorely lack this season.
Not surprisingly, Rielly was the difference Wednesday as he netted the winning goal with 4:51 remaining in regulation as the Warriors edged the Giants 2-1 before a crowd of 5,525 at Pacific Coliseum. It was the Giants' fifth straight loss.
Rielly dazzled on nearly every one of his shifts – he hit the post on a shorthanded breakaway earlier in the third – in a sublime performance similar to the one he put on Nov. 14 in the Subway Super Series when he played for Team WHL.
“We might be getting a little spoiled from what we see out of Morgan on a daily basis,” said Moose Jaw coach Mike Stothers following the victory. “I think he just showed why he's a difference-maker and a game-breaker. He has some restrictions but you don't want to stifle his creativity and his skating ability.”
Rielly will undoubtedly be a key figure for Canada at next month's world junior tournament in Russia and, in the not-too-distant future, for the Toronto Maple Leafs, who chose him fifth overall in last June's NHL entry draft. (Remember the NHL?) The Leafs, already the richest franchise in hockey, have an apparent money player in Rielly.
“It's always nice to come home and play a game and I've been blessed to have a chance to do it twice in the last two weeks,” Rielly said. “It's been fun.”
Rielly was all over the ice Wednesday and occasionally caught out of position, which only made his shifts more entertaining. Asked if he usually has the green light, he smiled and responded: “Pretty much. I try to be cautious at times but if the team needs a goal, I'm not afraid to go. Tonight, it was a play where we had a chance for a 2-on-1 and I came down with Justin Kirsch. He wasn't all that open so I just tried to go for a rebound and it kind of came back to me, which was nice. It's always a treat to get a goal and it just so happens it was the winner.”
The Giants received the start they wanted when left winger Tristan Sieben scored on Vancouver's first shot at the 3:20 mark of the opening period, a backhand wraparound that found its way past Moose Jaw netminder Justin Paulic.
Vancouver couldn't do anything beyond the Sieben goal and managed just one more shot the rest of the period while Moose Jaw was pelting Giant starter Payton Lee at the other end. Lee was finally beaten with 1:30 left in the period as Kendall McFaull's power-play point shot leaked through him.
Neither team was able to score in the middle period, Moose Jaw having the best opportunity with a 5-on-3 power play for a full two minutes. Giant left winger Trevor Cheek also missed a glorious chance to break the tie when he was thwarted on a shorthanded breakaway, leaving the score knotted 1-1 heading into the third and setting the table for Rielly's winner.
Moose Jaw outshot Vancouver 34-16.
G-NOTES: The Giants are in Everett Friday night before returning home Saturday to face the Tri-City Americans on Trevor Linden Night.
© Copyright (c) The Vancouver Sun