Giants Swallow Bitter Pill in Overtime Loss to Kamloops
VANCOUVER, BC – The Vancouver Giants appeared well in control of the game after taking a 3-1 lead into the 3rd period and extending it to 4-1 just three minutes into the final frame. But the Blazers responded quickly and chipped away until they tied the game at 4 with the goalie pulled in the last minute. JC Lipon would complete the comeback with a buzzer beater in overtime on the power play (with 1.8 seconds left) to give the Blazers a 5-4 overtime victory, improving their pre-season record to a perfect 4-0, and dropping the Giants pre-season record to 1-2-1-0.
After a rough and tumble game Wednesday in Kamloops where emotions boiled over, tonight was a surprisingly mellow game where both teams were all business. That’s not to say there weren’t some big hits, but the post-whistle scrums and dirty cheap shots were kept to a minimum tonight with ‘playing hockey’ the main focus.
The first period was very neat and tidy for the Giants. They were air-tight defensively and in goal, as Liam Liston looked unflappable. Cain Franson opened the scoring for the Giants at 11:39 on a rebound from a point shot by John Neibrandt (even though the scoresheet said Neibrandt got the goal, that was an error). Nathan Burns added a breakaway goal (off a great stretch pass from Neibrandt) at 15:23 to increase the Giants lead to 2-0.
It looked like Vancouver would take that lead into the intermission, but Ales Kilnar took a tripping penalty in the last minute, and Mitch Friesen was able to pop one past a screened Liston with just 20 seconds left to get the Blazers back into it at 2-1.
After getting outshot by the Giants 13-8 in the first period, the Blazers’ late goal gave them a big spark in the 2nd, and they looked like a different team. They had a lot more jump and created a lot more scoring chances, outshooting the Giants 14-9. The game really opened up after the halfway mark of the period when Payton Lee took over for Liston between the pipes. This included a sequence where Marek Tvrdon got robbed in tight by Cole Cheveldave (who played the whole game for Kamloops), and seconds later Payton Lee stopped Matt Needham on a breakaway.
It came almost against the flow of play, but with just a minute left, the Giants were able to extend their lead to 3-1 on a scramble goal by Riley Kieser. He outmuscled the Blazers’ defensemen on top of the goal crease and banged in a rebound to give the Giants a two-goal lead after 40 minutes and steal back the momentum.
In the third period, the Giants appeared to ice the game when Wes Vannieuwenhuizen’s point shot was tipped five-hole by Taylor Makin at 3:12 to give the Giants a 4-1 lead. However, only 39 seconds later, Cole Ully was able to get Kamloops back on the board to cut the deficit to 4-2. This sparked their bench and suddenly the Blazers had life. It wasn’t until 11 and a half minutes later that the Blazers got another one. Just after killing a penalty, Aspen Sterzer had a dominant shift in the Giants zone as he won a battle behind the net and centered for Rob Trzonkowski who one-timed it past a stunned Payton Lee to make it a one goal game with just less than 5 minutes left. The Giants were on their heels from here as the Blazers smelled blood.
After Kamloops pulled Cheveldave with about 90 seconds left, they poured it on and bombarded Payton Lee. After Lee made a couple great stops, it proved to be too much; as he was trying to re-set himself in position after a big save, Colin Smith found a loose puck in the slot and slid the puck five-hole through Lee to tie the game with 56 seconds left in regulation. It was never in the plans, but the Giants and Blazers were overtime-bound.
In the extra session, both teams went at each other back and forth in a free-flowing, whistle-free 5 minutes. Despite a great pace to the 4 on 4 session, there were only 2 shots registered, and they both went to Kamloops. The 2nd shot proved to be the knockout punch. After an interference penalty to Taylor Makin with just 18 seconds left, the Blazers won the face-off and set up the perfect play where JC Lipon was the trigger-man from the slot with just 1.8 seconds remaining. He was able to blast one low stick side past Lee who was screened by several players. Payton Lee could do nothing to react until it was too late, and the Blazers celebrated a most improbable victory to keep their perfect pre-season record in tact.