It had the potential to drastically go the other way.
The Portland Winterhawks — ranked second among all Canadian Junior Hockey League teams in the most recent polls, having only lost five of their first 26 games — had scored twice to pull within one of the Vancouver Giants.
Four minutes and change still remained and the ice seemed tilted towards the Giants end of the ice.
This was the same Vancouver team which surrendered seven unanswered goals in the final nine minutes of a game less than a month earlier, escaping with an 8-7 victory after time expired before the visitors could pot another.
But this time, the Giants called timeout and coach Jason McKee told the team to stay calm.
A dozen seconds later, Ty Ronning capitalized off a great feed from Tyler Benson to make it 5-3, which would turn out to be the final score on Tuesday night at the Langley Events Centre.
The win — the Giants third in four games — improved the team to 13-13-2-2 while Portland fell to 20-6-0-1.
“Your veteran guys have to respond in those situations and they did,” McKee said.
“And our guys were committed to the cause and emotionally invested. I thought they played the right way for most of the game.”
The Giants never trailed in the contest.
Owen Hardy scored twice in the first period — once short-handed after Dawson Holt won a battle along the boards to feed Hardy who was all alone in front of the goal and then again after he won a face-off and fired the puck short-side past Cole Kehler.
The Winterhawks cut the lead to 2-1 with the only goal of the second period when Cody Glass struck on the power play.
But Aidan Barfoot and James Malm made it 4-1 with goals less than three minutes apart in the third before Portland mounted a comeback that fell short.
Hardy was the game’s first star with three points, as he also set a new career high with seven WHL goals.
It was also his first game as centre as he has always played wing in his previous 134 games.
“I just play the same way every night and the puck went in for me tonight, which was nice,” he said. “And hopefully I can keep it going.”
“We wanted to add some size and strength up the middle, some guys who can win some battles down low and I thought he did that,” McKee said.
Goaltender David Tendeck also came up large, making 43 saves as Portland outshot Vancouver 46-38.
Tendeck was indifferent to how many shots he faced as long as his team got the ‘W’.
“They score a couple but there is nothing you can about it, you just have to refocus and stop the next shot,” he said about what was going through his mind against the Western Conference’s top-scoring team, one which features six NHL draftees.
Vancouver also did this minus two of their top four defencemen, who are still out with injuries.
“That is a very good team, their special teams are good and they have a lot of high end guys there and our team battled hard and got some great goaltending from Dave in the end and throughout the game, and that is what you need to beat teams like that,” McKee said.
The teams will complete the home-and-home series on Friday in Portland before Vancouver returns to the LEC on Dec. 9 when they host the Kootenay Ice.