The game may be 60 minutes long, but a poor 20 minutes did in the Vancouver Giants.
Riding high off a season-high eight-game winning streak, the Giants fell behind 2-0 after 20 minutes and 3-0 by the 7:15 mark of the middle stanza to the visiting Kelowna Rockets on Sunday afternoon at Langley Events Centre.
To their credit, Vancouver took over from that point on, scoring the next three goals against a tired Rockets team playing their third game in as many days.
Ultimately, the game would require a shootout with Kelowna’s Leif Mattson the only shooter to find the back of the net in a 4-3 Rockets victory.
It was Vancouver’s first shootout loss of the season in four tries.
With the single point, the Giants sit at 31-12-2-1 for 65 points and a commanding 15-point lead atop the WHL’s B.C. division standings.
The Rockets sit third in the division at 20-24-3-1.
It was Kelowna’s first win in five tries versus Vancouver this season and in the previous four encounters – which included a 2-1 Giants win the night before in Kelowna – the Rockets managed a total of just three goals.
Giants coach Michael Dyck said his team delivered an ‘A’ performance their previous home game, a 3-1 win over the WHL-leading – and top-ranked CHL team – Prince Albert Raiders on Thursday night.
But less than 72 hours later, the coach said the first period his team came out with was on the opposite end of the spectrum, an ‘F’.
Confidence is a big key when things are running well for a team, Dyck said.
“But as soon as you start getting arrogant, that’s when you are going to get popped. That was the message before the first period, and we got popped,” he said.
“We went away from everything that we did the last couple of games.”
Mark Liwiski opened the scoring 11:31 into the contest, taking a gorgeous feed from Mattson and burying it past David Tendeck. Less than three minutes later, Mattson, Dallon Wilton and Kyle Topping converted a beautiful passing play.
Topping made it 3-0 just past the seven-minute mark of the second period.
But Justin Sourdif’s 12th of the season 65 seconds later got the Giants back in the game and Vancouver then took over. Davis Koch struck for his team-best 19th, one-timing a cross-ice feed from Tristan Nielsen to make it 3-2.
The score remained that way for the next 21 minutes until Bowen Byram walked into the slot, froze the defenders and snapped home his 18th.
The Giants were outshot 12-6 in the first period but had a 27-12 advantage over the final 40 minutes of regulation. In overtime – which featured the Giants short-handed for two minutes – Kelowna registered the only shot on goal.
Koch, Byram and Nielsen were all denied by Kelowna’s Roman Basran in the shootout, while Topping and Nolan Foote could not beat Tendeck. Mattson then proceeded to beat Tendeck on a deke for the winner. Mattson finished the night with three assists and was the game’s first star.
The Giants are back in action on Wednesday as they travel to Kamloops to face the Blazers. It marks the first of seven games over the next 12 days for the Giants in six cities.