After setting up the first two goals with a pair of highlight-reel assists, Davis Koch came through with a goal of his own, delivering what turned out to be the winner to send the Vancouver Giants to a 3-2 victory.
Following Tristan Nielsen’s shot clanking off the crossbar, Koch was first to the loose puck before Victoria Royals’ goaltender Brock Gould could get in position, burying the biscuit into the open net to give the Giants a 3-1 lead with 6:48 to play.
And Koch’s tally proved huge as the Victoria Royals got back within one thanks to Scott Walford’s power-play marker with 3:01 to play but the Giants held firm for a third consecutive victory.
The Western Hockey League rivals were playing on Sunday afternoon at Langley Events Centre and the win stretches the Giants (26-12-2-0, 54 points) lead atop the B.C. Division to nine points over the second-place Royals (22-17-1-0, 45 points).
“If we wanted to paint a picture, that wasn’t a Mona Lisa, that’s for sure. It was ugly at times, but the important part was we found a way to win,” said Giants head coach Michael Dyck.
Koch and Nielsen both finished the game with a goal and two helpers, the second consecutive game they accomplished the feat. Koch also had eight points (two goals, six assists) over his past three games and he leads the Giants with 41 points in 40 games.
The duo, alongside trade deadline acquisition Jadon Joseph, finished with seven points and a combined +8.
“When they needed to make plays or when they had the opportunity to make plays, they made plays. Kocher made a great look at Bowen’s goal. I think Tristen has put together two of his best games and Joseph compliments that line, adding a physical presence,” Dyck said, adding the line didn’t force things either when the time was not there to make a play, instead getting the puck deep and then getting to work.
Nielsen entered the weekend with four goals and eight points in his first 27 games, before registering six points in his last two.
This was the line’s fourth game together and Nielsen said the trio is starting to gel.
“We are starting to communicate and know where each other are going to be,” he said. “And Jadon works so hard, he is helping (us) get open and create space. And Koch, he is just so patient with the puck – he always has his head up and knows how to make the right play.”
Koch set up the game’s opening goal while the teams were skating four-on-four midway through the first period. Out of the corner of his eye, he spotted Bowen Byram and delivered a beautiful cross-ice, no-look back-hand pass which the defenceman put home.
And Koch was at it again in the second period, making a pass while laying on the ice to Nielsen at the Victoria blue-line. Nielsen walked into the slot and rifled one off the bar and in.
The Royals cut the lead back to one less than two minutes later as Jameson Murray was able to elude a pair of defenders before sliding the puck past David Tendeck.
Vancouver didn’t surrender much in the third period, save for Walford’s power-play goal.
But Vancouver is getting offence from a multitude of players, instead of relying on just one line.
The Giants scored seven goals the night before in their victory and now have 16 goals during their current three-game win streak. That’s in stark contrast to the seven goals they scored in their preceding four games, all defeats.
Up next, the team hits the road for a pair of games, Wednesday at the Tri-City Americans and then Friday versus the Spokane Chiefs. The Giants return to LEC on Saturday night as they welcome the Moose Jaw Warriors to town. The Warriors have Vancouver Canucks second-round draft pick Jett Woo on their roster.
Photos courtesy of Chris Relke Vancouver Giants