Had this game happened earlier in the season, head coach Michael Dyck isn’t sure what would have transpired.
He was referring to his Vancouver Giants club which struggled with inconsistency on a game-to-game basis for the first two-thirds of this Western Hockey League season.
On Sunday afternoon, the Kamloops Blazers had just tied the score with half a period to play.
“They made it 3-3 – probably the team before Christmas would have buckled a little bit but this team did a really good job of getting the momentum and once we got it back, we protected it,” Dyck said. “Every time they got momentum we pushed back quickly.”
Vancouver scored four unanswered goals as part of a five-goal period to defeat Kamloops 7-3 at Langley Events Centre. The win was a sixth straight for the Giants (25-20-3-2, 55 points) while Kamloops (32-16-3-1, 68 points) lost for a fifth consecutive game. The Blazers’ slide began with a pair of losses to Vancouver, the first of which was in overtime.
Vancouver, which sits third in the Western Hockey League’s B.C. Division, improved to 3-3-1-0 against the Blazers with two games remaining in the season series.
RECAP: @TPreziuso and Eric Florchuk combined for seven points on Sunday as the Giants secured a 7-3 victory over the Kamloops Blazers. For the Giants it was their sixth consecutive win.
More 📎: https://t.co/56Zx0IsTTG
📸: Rob Wilton pic.twitter.com/nE9mImPXg6
— Vancouver Giants (@WHLGiants) February 10, 2020
“It really wasn’t a 7-3 game, we were grinding that one out the whole time,” said Giants captain Alex Kannok Leipert. “It was a good, hard-fought game, a playoff game. That was a high-pace game, those are the ones you love to have.”
The teams traded goals in the first period with Logan Stankoven opening the scoring for the visitors before Cole Shepard responded for the Giants. The Blazers had a glorious opportunity to pull ahead when Connor Zary was awarded a penalty shot but David Tendeck came up with the glove save.
Tristen Nielsen gave Vancouver the lead late in the second, blasting home his 24th during a two-man advantage but less than three minutes later Orrin Centazzo pulled the Blazers back even with a power-play goal of their own.
For the second straight game, Dyck wasn’t happy with his team’s middle stanza.
“We challenged the guys. We needed to be better. At that point, we weren’t happy with the way they were playing and we needed a bigger push from them,” he said.
The team responded and in what has become the norm over the last dozen games (Vancouver is 8-3-1-0 in that span) the power play proved to be a major catalyst. On Sunday, the Giants cashed in on both their power-play chances in the third period and the finished the game 3-for-6. Vancouver has power-play goals in seven straight games with 15 goals in that span, operating at a 46.9 per cent success rate. Since January 10, the Giants are 21-for-48 (43.8 per cent) and have climbed from second-last in the 22-team WHL to 11th overall at 20.4 per cent.
Eric Florchuk had the first to make it 3-2 and after Ryan Hughes made it 3-3, Tyler Preziuso gave Vancouver the lead for good with both goals coming courtesy of the special teams.
Florchuk and Preziuso both added their second goals (Preziuso’s came into the empty net) and Holden Katzalay completed the scoring as he found the back of the net for the third straight game.
Vancouver will look for a seventh straight victory when they host the Red Deer Rebels on Wednesday (February 12) at Langley Events Centre. Puck drop is 7 p.m.
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Preziuso led all scorers with a pair of goals and four points while Florchuk (two goals, one assist), Nielsen (one goal, one assist), Bowen Byram (two assists) and Justin Lies (two assists) also had multi-point games.
The Giants improved to 20-0-0-0 when they score four or more goals.
The final shots on goal were 37-32 for Kamloops.
The Blazers entered the game with the league’s third-best penalty kill with an 86.6 per cent success rate.