Too many passengers: that was the verdict from Vancouver Giants head coach Michael Dyck following a disappointing – and somewhat surprising – 3-0 loss to the last-place Prince George Cougars on Tuesday night at Langley Events Centre.
“We had too many passengers tonight, too many guys who were thinking about going home (for the holidays) and you are not going to beat anybody with passengers,” he said. “We were well prepared going in tonight (but) we found a way to lose.”
The victory was just the eighth of the season for the Cougars (8-20-1-3) who sit last in the Western Hockey League’s Western Conference, but two of those wins have come at the expense of the Giants (14-15-1-1).
Another troubling aspect of the loss was that while Vancouver had lost their previous game as well (a 3-2 setback on the road on Saturday night in Everett) they at least played much better against the top team in the Western Conference.
“How do you go from one night where you hold Everett to 20 shots in their own building and then you give up 32 at home?” Dyck questioned.
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In Tuesday’s game, it seemed the teams would head to the second intermission locked in a scoreless tie but the Giants could not clear the zone on a late power play and the puck made its way to Rhett Rhinehart with the defenceman blasting home a one-timer with just 1.6 seconds on the clock.
Josh Maser doubled the lead at 11:33 of the third period redirecting a pass from in front of goaltender Trent Miner with Prince George enjoying a two-man advantage.
Maser completed the scoring with 2:08 to play into the empty net as Vancouver was again short-handed but had pulled the goaltender so it was at least five-on-five as they desperately tried to get on the board.
Each team had 32 shots on goal with Prince George’s Taylor Gauthier continued his stellar play of late, earning his first shutout of the season. He has also stopped 96 of the past 100 shots over the previous three games.
Miner kept the Giants in the game, earning third star honours with his 29-save effort.
But as has been the case too often this season, Vancouver was on the wrong side of the special teams battle.
“We addressed our discipline against this team – we are averaging six penalties every time we play these guys – and we lived up to our average tonight and that was the difference,” Dyck said about the Cougars cashing in on three of their six opportunities while Vancouver was blanked on both their chances.
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For the season, the Giants are converting just 11.4 per cent of their chances, which is second worst in the WHL. The league average is 20.9 per cent. A few more goals courtesy of their beleaguered special teams could make a huge difference for the Giants who have scored just three power play goals in their past 14 games.
And the formula to fix that is straightforward, the coach said.
“If they would follow the plan that is set in front of them, and again, it’s not rocket science, it’s a matter of getting more pucks to the net, more people to the net,” Dyck explained. “We have a plan; we just don’t have enough guys on the same page.”
The Giants have one more game before the holiday break as they are right back in action with a trip to Kelowna on Wednesday (December 18) against a Rockets team which has gone 7-2-0-1 in their past 10 games and sit nine points ahead of Vancouver in the standings.
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