Vancouver Giants head coach Michael Dyck (Special to Black Press)

Giants ‘hungry’ to win it next year

This Langley-based team of grit, determination, and resilience should be proud: Coach

From the head coach, to the team captain, to the team’s star defencemen, they all agree it’s been an “incredible” season.

Making it one goal shy of winning the league championship, while disappointing – even heartbreaking – was also an “incredible” feat.

It something the Vancouver Giants major junior hockey league should be “incredibly proud” of, said coach Michael Dyck.

The G-Men failed to win the Western Hockey League title last week, losing to the Prince Albert Riaders in overtime in Game 7 of the finals.

RECENT COVERAGE: Giants fall in Game 7 overtime, Raiders taking WHL and marching on to Memorial Cup in Halifax

“The guys did a great job,” and while recognizing they’re all devastated right now, Dyck predicted “they’ll realize the significance of what we’ve accomplished in a couple of days.”

“We finally get some banners in our dressing room. We haven’t had them for a decade… we’ve earned some respect again,” he said. They made the playoffs in each of 2011, 2012, 2014 and 2018 and lost in the first rounds each of those seasons. In 2010, they made it through to the Western Conference finals, but lost in that round. This is the furthest they have been since 2007.

To make it so far in the series this year speaks to the character and talent of this team, Dyck said.

“We never, ever quit,” he added, saying the players individually and as a team demonstrated “remarkable” resilience and resolve.

“It’s a reflection of our character. It is a reflection of the grit we have, of the mental toughness, the determination,” he elaborated.

While everyone appears anxious for a bit of a break after a long four-series playoff season, Dyck said the near win has made the team hungry to come back and win it next season.

After spending a year focused on building winning habits and winning attitudes, it has paid off, Dyck said.

This has been an invaluable experience for all the players, including the younger guys who will be back in the fall to continue on the work.

“The challenge now is to reload and refocus,” and try again, Dyck said. “I’m really excited about the prospects for the next season.”

WATCH: Coach Michael Dyck

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A day full of emotions

While the team plays its home games at Langley Events Centre, they practise in Ladner. And a few days after their loss to Prince Albert, they returned from Saskatchewan and spent some time sharing their thoughts and feelings with each other and media during an exit event Thursday at Ladner Leisure Centre.

Most agreed it was an emotional day, but also a day for celebrating one of the most memorable seasons of Vancouver Giants hockey.

On the emotional front, the team is saying goodbye to captain Jared Dmytriw, defenceman Dallas Hines, and forward Davis Koch.

“These guys did a phenomenal job,” reflected Dyck. “They’ve left this place in a better state than they founded it, and that’s not a legacy, I don’t know what is.”

The three 20-year-olds are leaving, and will be sadly missed, not just as players but as friends, said 19-year-old forward Dawson Holt.

It’s tough to see them go, but they’ll do great things in their future,” Holt added.

He described 2018-19 as an “unforgettable season,” echoing that there’s a lot to be proud of – especially how the guys came together and worked so well, as a cohesive unit.

Upset by the ultimate outcome, he keeps reminding himself that one bank could have taken it either way, and Holt insisted it’s because of their camaraderie on and off the ice that it came down to the wire.

Holt will definitely be taking a little time off to “rest the body,” but it won’t be long before the Saskatoon native is back at the gym and lacing up his skates.

That might not be the only goodbyes being shared.

While they’re a hockey franchise, and the quest is to build a team capable of winning, Dyck said there’s always another underlying goal for the WHL team.

That’s to develop players and get them ready to potentially play at the next level – the NHL. And one of the country’s top defenceman, Bowen Byram is an shining example of one that might not be returning to the Giants dressing room come fall.

In November Byram suited up for Team WHL in the 2018 CIBC Canada Russia Series.And in January, in a game against Kamloops, he became the first Giants defenceman to ever record five points in a single game. His accomplishments on the ice have not gone unnoticed.

Consquently, Byram is considered a top prospect for the 2019 NHL draft, and that means the 17-year-old might not be back playing with the Giants next season.

“If Bowen is ready to play at that level, then we’ve done our job,” Dyck said.

“Would we love to see him back here? Absolutely,” he added. “But, if he’s good enough to play next year, we couldn’t be happier. Obviously, we’re a lot better with him in our lineup.”

Byram said either way, he’s looking forward to continuing with the sport he loves next fall.

If it’s with the Giants, he said he’d be thrilled to “be back with all my best buds.”

Either way, he said, he looks forward to a bit of a break then lacing up and getting back on the ice.

Dmytriw, the team captain who has aged out and is leaving the team, said he’s eternally grateful for the run he’s enjoyed with the Giants.

While he’s uncertain yet what his future holds, he’s optimistic for what lies ahead for the Giants.

Before the season started, during training camp and before being selected as team captain, Dmytriw said he knew “we had a special group.”

But even recognizing that, he still never expected the team would gel so well and come together to triumph through the playoff season the way it did.

“The way that we battled through and the heart that they showed,” was nothing short of miraculous, said Dmytriw.

Now, he said, “there’s a ton of emotions” for him, as the residual sting from their loss hangs on and he prepares to bid adieu to his teammates and friends.

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