It’s an all-too familiar story this season: the Vancouver Giants jump out to an early lead, only to see plucky opposition teams chip away and eventually win the game.
On Sunday, however, playing their third game in as many nights, Vancouver seemed determined to get Jake Morrissey his first win in Giants colours. It was Morrissey’s first start at the Pacific Coliseum; he’d made it into seven games in one form or another earlier in the season, but only been credited with three losses and had that big fat zero looming in the W column for some time.
Tyler Benson made his return to the lineup, and even at 80% looked to be one of the stronger players on the ice. It took him less than a period to get on the scoresheet, setting up Trevor Cox for the opening goal. He brought welcome grit to battles on the boards, and mixed it up a few times with Kamloops forwards to let them know whose building they were in.
The Giants got the first three goals — including Chase Lang’s fifth tally in three games — before turning their heads into cement on consecutive shifts midway through the second period. The 3-2 lead seemed doable until Gage Quinney tied it up late in the third period. Vancouver held the edge in play throughout overtime, thanks largely to energetic play from Benson, Ty Ronning and Chase Lang. Ronning even scored what most people in the rink thought was a sudden death winner, but it was called off after review; the play was ruled offside, but probably should have garnered the Giants a Too Many Men minor.
Luckily for the home side, the refs not only didn’t catch the offside on the goal, but missed skate on that sloppy change as well. To the shootout we went!
Morrissey stopped 32 shots in 65 minutes of hockey, and all three shooters in the skills competition for good measure. Connor Ingram, for his part, stopped 22 shots for the Blazers, and foiled the first two shootout attempts. Cox slipped a deft backhand between the wickets on the final try for the two points. Morrissey pokechecked Deven Sideroff on the final attempt for Kamloops, and leapt up to play air guitar in celebration. As the team surrounded Morrissey to congratulate him on the win, Carter Popoff immediately signalled the linesman to collect the puck for Morrissey’s mantle.
The win was fun to witness, and to come in the same 72-hour period as two sloppy games against the Kelowna Rockets, the class of the Western Conference, well that would be impressive for any team in the league. But let’s be honest: the Giants are all but mathematically eliminated from the post-season at this point, and gifting a single to the team they’re trying to catch for the final spot isn’t doing themselves any favours. The only loss of the weekend came on Friday in Kelowna, a game they led 4-1 and 5-3 before allowing three third period goals. This Sunday win — and don’t misunderstand me, it was a win — should have been easier; they were up by a field goal five minutes into the second period, but squandered the lead. Yes, the team has a lot of young players, but holy smokes fellas, hold onto a lead.
Benson’s return, though, and Lang’s roll make these last few games an interesting prospect indeed. Whether they play spoiler for another Western Conference team, or just give fans a glimpse of what kind of season could have transpired had Benson not been injured for such a lengthy period, these next four weeks should provide some entertaining hockey. And ain’t that what it’s all about?