PREVIEW: Vancouver Giants at Kamloops Blazers (Game #63)
Tonight in Kamloops, the Vancouver Giants kick off a stretch of three games in three days when they take the ice against their B.C. Division rivals, the Kamloops Blazers. The Giants have played twice already this week and are 1-0-1-0 earning three of the four points made available to them. A win tonight for the Giants would ensure a top-three playoff spot in the B.C. Division standings.
Home Record: 13-16-1-2
Last Game: A 5-1 win at home on Wednesday against Victoria
Last 10: 2-7-1-0
Goals For/Goals Against: 192/210 (-18)
Power Play: 22.0% (13th in WHL)
Penalty Kill: 77.8% (16th in WHL)
Leading Scorers: Jermaine Loewen (59GP – 33G – 24A – 57PTS), Joe Gatenby (65GP – 12G – 42A – 54PTS), Quinn Benjafield (62GP – 19G – 26A – 45PTS)
WHO’S UP FRONT:
Jermaine Loewen: The Blazers leading scorer had the fifth goal in the Blazers recent win over Victoria. Over his past five games he’s got four goals and three assists for seven points. The only game in his past five where he didn’t register a point was Monday in a 2-0 loss in Langley to the Giants.
Luc Smith: In five games against Vancouver, the rugged forward has two goals and four assists for six points. For the season, Smith has registered 17 goals to go along with 21 assists for 38 points. He’s already 16 points ahead from his totals from 2016-17. His +9 rating is third best on the team.
WHO’S ON D:
Joe Gatenby: The 20-year-old comes into the weekend with 12 goals and 54 points, both of which are the top totals for the team amongst defencemen. He plays in all situations and his +19 rating tells us that he’s very dependable in any situation that he’s trusted in. Gatenby has a goal and two assists in five games against Vancouver.
Nolan Kneen: 2017-18 has been a breakout season of sorts for the 2014 third overall pick Nolan Kneen. The 18-year-old has set new season highs for goals (5) and points (32) and should only continue to get better as he arrives at the back-half of his junior career.
WHO’S IN GOAL:
Dylan Ferguson: The Vegas Golden Knights prospect is coming off a 24 save victory Wednesday at home to Victoria. That win helped him improve his record to 23-25-1-3 with one shutout, a .908 save percentage and a 2.92 goals-against-average. Ferguson is 1-2 against Vancouver this season with a 3.03 goals-against-average and an .897 save percentage.
Desperation: The Kamloops Blazers are running out of games to make a run at a playoff berth, which means every game from here on our must be treated with a high degree of desperation. The Blazers are no pushover, and are not about to make the Giants path to the playoffs an easy one by any stretch.
Road Record: 13-10-4-2
Last Game: A 4-3 OT loss Tuesday in Seattle
Last 10: 4-5-1-0
Goals For/Goals Against: 204/210 (-6)
Power Play: 21.3% (14th in WHL)
Penalty Kill: 80.0% (4th in WHL)
Leading Scorers: Ty Ronning (61GP – 54G – 21A – 75PTS), Tyler Benson (49GP – 22G – 38A – 60PTS), James Malm (62GP – 18G – 38A – 56PTS)
WHO’S UP FRONT:
Tyler Benson: The Giants captain brings a six-game point streak into tonight’s game. During that streak he’s registered three goals and six assists for nine points. Benson had the empty-net goal for the Giants on Monday at home against Kamloops and sits second on the team in scoring with 22 goals and 60 points.
James Malm: Malm bagged his 18th goal of the season on Tuesday in Seattle and now has 18 goals to go along with his 36 assists. Malm historically has scored goals in bunches, which hopefully bodes well for him and his teammates heading into tonight’s matchup with Kamloops. Malm doesn’t have a goal against the Blazers but has three helpers, and could be poised for a big weekend with a chance to clinch a playoff spot.
WHO’S ON D:
Bowen Byram: The WHL’s Rookie of the Month for February looks to continue his impressive play as the calendar turns into March. Byram had three goals and six assists for nine points in 12 February games and for the season he now has six goals and 17 assists for 23 points with a +2 rating. In three meetings with Kamloops, Byram has three assists this season.
Matt Barberis: Since returning to the Giants lineup, Matt Barberis has been effective at all ends of the ice. It’s no coincidence that the Giants power play has struck in each of the past two games since then. For the season, Barberis has three goals and 27 assists and in five games against Kamloops has registered four assists.
WHO’S IN GOAL:
David Tendeck: The 18-year-old made 24 saves against the Blazers on Monday to secure the victory and the shutout. He’ll likely get the nod again tonight on the road as he looks to help the Giants to their 33rd win of the season. Tendeck is 2-1 against Kamloops with a 2.67 goals-against-average and a .913 save percentage.
Attention to Details: The Giants effort has been strong in each of their first two games this weekend and thus have three of four available points. Tonight though in a loud, hostile environment the Giants will need to stay detailed on their approach to a Kamloops squad that is going to bring their best. If the Giants can rival the Blazers work ethic and maintain a similar offensive and defensive approach to tonight’s game, they’ll give themselves every opportunity possible to win the game and clinch a playoff berth in the process.