Coming off their first victory following an eight-game losing streak, Vancouver Giants head coach Michael Dyck was expecting his team to build off that momentum as they looked to punch their ticket to the post-season.
What transpired, however, was a four-goal barrage in the opening 8:25 and a five-goal first period on Wednesday night at Langley Events Centre as the visiting Seattle Thunderbirds – who had nothing to play for as they are locked in as the No. 4 seed for the Western Hockey League’s western conference playoffs – rolled to a 6-0 win over the Giants.
“Embarrassing start. Awful. I thought we played well in Kelowna for two games and had a little bit of momentum,” Dyck said. “That was certainly not what we expected.”
Vancouver had ended an eight-game slide on Sunday with under-age goaltender Matthew Hutchison delivering a 27-save performance in a much-needed 3-2 victory. The win put the Giants in position to clinch one of the three remaining playoff spots and Dyck went with Hutchison in goal for a second straight contest.
“To play that way in front of our 15-year-old goaltender is unacceptable. He played so well for us on Sunday, and we hung him out to dry (tonight),” the coach said.
The visiting Seattle Thunderbirds blitzed Vancouver early, scoring four times in the opening 8:25 as part of a five-goal first period to hand the Giants a ninth defeat in their past 10 games, 6-0 on Wednesday night at Langley Events Centre.
The Giants remain locked in a four-team battle for the three playoff berths up for grabs in the Western Hockey League’s western conference standings.
The loss dropped Vancouver to 24-37-4-0 and 52 points. The Spokane Chiefs and Prince George Cougars each have 51 points while the Victoria Royals have 50 points. All four teams have two games remaining with Vancouver and Prince George both facing Kelowna and Kamloops, respectively, on back-to-back nights while the Royals and Chiefs square off for a huge two-game set with both contests set for the provincial capital.
A win in either remaining game would earn Vancouver a post-season berth, while two losses would see the team needing help on the out-of-town scoreboard.
The path to the post-season remains simple for the Giants: win and they are in. The process to achieve that goal, however, remains a work in progress.
Wednesday’s game saw Seattle score nearly as many goals in the opening 20 minutes (five) as the Giants had shots on goal (six).
Jared Davidson had a first-period hat trick while Matthew Rempe and Bryce Pickford had the other goals. Sam Popowich made it 6-0 with the only goal of the middle stanza, beating Will Gurski, who replaced Hutchison after the fourth goal. Final shots on goal were 34-25 with Seattle’s Thomas Milic earning the shutout.
Up next for the Vancouver Giants is a Friday night home game at Langley Events Centre (7:30 p.m) against a Rockets squad out of Kelowna, which is secured as the fifth seed for the post-season.
Then, they close out the regular season on Saturday in Kamloops versus a Blazers team that could be playing for first-place and home-ice advantage through the western conference playoffs – if they win on Friday and the Everett Silvertips lose both their remaining games.
RECAP: Jared Davidson had three goals, and Thomas Milic had a 25-save shutout Wednesday as the Giants fell 6-0 at home to Seattle. Up next – Kelowna Friday at 7:30 PM.
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— Vancouver Giants (@WHLGiants) April 14, 2022
BY THE NUMBERS
SEA – Jared Davidson (37) opened the scoring for the Thunderbirds 57 seconds into the first. A hard forecheck by teammate Lucas Ciona forced a loose puck that Ciona slid over to Davidson who beat Hutchison low.
SEA – The T-Birds made it a two-goal lead with 14:41 remaining in the first. Matthew Rempe buried his 16th of the year as he ripped home a one-timer from the high circle. The play was generated in the corner by Nico Myatovic who passed it up to Rempe for the finish.
SEA – Bryce Pickford tallied his first career WHL goal 52 seconds later for Seattle. Pickford rushed into the zone and picked a corner. Assists were provided by Gabe Ludwig and Samuel Knazko.
SEA – Jared Davidson (38) scored his second goal of the period on a shot from the mid-circle. The assist came from Connor Roulette at 8:25.
*Matthew Hutchison was replaced by Will Gurski in the Giants goal.
SEA – Jared Davidson (39) completed the first period hat-trick after he unleashed a one-timer into a wide-open net off a pass from Samuel Knazko. That made the score 5-0 Thunderbirds with 4:05 remaining in the first.
Shots: 18-6 Seattle
SEA – The Thunderbirds made it 6-0 thanks to Sam Popowich (9). Popowich flew into the zone and fired a wrist-shot from between the dots. The lone assist came from Luca Ciona, 15:15 into the second period.
Shots: 10-7 Seattle
Shots: 10-6 Vancouver
Final score: 6-0 Seattle
Final shots: 34-25 Seattle
Matthew Hutchison: 8/12 Saves
Will Gurski: 20/22 Saves
Thomas Milic: 25/25 Saves
Vancouver power play: 0/2
Seattle power play: 0/2
3 Stars: 1) Jared Davidson (SEA – 3G); 2) Thomas Milic (SEA – 25/25 Saves); and 3) Samuel Knazko (SEA – 2A)
— Vancouver Giants (@WHLGiants) April 3, 2022
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