PREVIEW: Vancouver Giants vs. Kamloops Blazers (Game #61)
Tonight in Langley, the Vancouver Giants wrap up their home portion of February games when they clash with their B.C. Division rivals, the Kamloops Blazers. These teams are about to get a whole lot more familiar with each other as they’ll face off three times in a span of six days and four times in a span of 17 days. Both teams are also looking to put an end to losing streaks as Kamloops has dropped two straight while the Giants have fallen in three straight games. This marks the first meeting between the two clubs since November 17th.
Road Record: 15-15-0-2
Last Game: A 6-5 loss Saturday night in Kelowna
Last 10: 3-6-0-1
Goals For/Goals Against: 187/207 (-20)
Power Play: 21.5% (13th in WHL)
Penalty Kill: 77.5% (16th in WHL)
Leading Scorers: Jermaine Loewen (57GP – 32G – 24A – 56PTS), Joe Gatenby (63GP – 12G – 40A – 52PTS), Quinn Benjafield (60GP – 19G – 25A – 44PTS)
WHO’S UP FRONT:
Jermaine Loewen: The 19-year-old comes into tonight’s game leading the Blazers in scoring with 32 goals and 56 points. In four games against the Giants he’s compiled five goals and two assists for seven points. Loewen has points in three straight games and has three goals and three assists in that span.
Quinn Benjafield: Fellow 19-year-old Quinn Benjafield is enjoying his best statistical season so far in the WHL. Through 60 games he’s scored 19 goals while adding 25 assists for 44 points. Benjafield has recorded two assists in each of his past two games and has two goals and three assists in four games against Vancouver in 2017-18.
WHO’S ON D:
Joe Gatenby: The 20-year-old has been a work horse for Kamloops. He’s suited up in all 63 games this season for Kamloops and has appeared in 308 career WHL games (with Kelowna/Kamloops). His 52 points is already 14 points ahead of his previous season high for points which he set a season ago. He has a goal and two assists against Vancouver in four games.
Montana Oneybuchi: The 17-year-old defenceman was one of the two key pieces returned to Kamloops in the trade that saw veterans Garrett Pilon and Ondrej Vala head South to Everett. Onyebuchi has a goal and six assists in 22 games so far with Kamloops and has 17 points in 60 total games.
WHO’S IN GOAL:
Dylan Ferguson: The prospect of the Vegas Golden Knights has played in 52 of the Blazers 63 games so far this season. His record sits at 22-24-1-3 with one shutout, a .906 save percentage and a 2.99 goals-against-average. He’s 1-1 in two appearances against the Giants in 2017-18 with a 4.00 goals-against-average and an .871 save percentage.
Desperation: Coming into tonight’s game the Blazers are six points back of Seattle for the final wild-card playoff spot in the Western Conference standings. Beyond that, the Blazers are still mathematically alive in their pursuit of a top-three spot in the B.C. Division. That said, they’re running out of games and running out of points. They trail Vancouver by 11 points and have 18 more available points remaining in their season. The Giants by comparison have 24 points available and would need any combination of four wins or Kamloops losses to clinch no worse than third.
Home Record: 18-11-2-1
Last Game: A 2-1 loss to Everett at home Friday
Last 10: 5-5-0-0
Goals For/Goals Against: 198/205 (-7)
Power Play: 20.8% (14th in WHL)
Penalty Kill: 80.1% (3rd in WHL)
Leading Scorers: Ty Ronning (59GP – 53G – 21A – 74PTS), Tyler Benson (47GP – 20G – 36A – 56PTS), James Malm (60GP – 17G – 37A – 46PTS)
WHO’S UP FRONT:
Ty Ronning: the 20-year-old has potted seven goals in four meetings so far this season against Kamloops. Ronning leads all Giants in scoring with 53 goals and 21 assists for 74 points. Through nine February games, Ronning has notched nine goals to go along with three assists for 12 points.
Tyler Benson: The Giants captain brings a four-game point streak into tonight’s game. During that span he’s scored a goal and added four assists. For the season, the Edmonton Oilers prospect has registered 20 goals along with 36 assists for 56 points. He’s tied for the team lead in assists and sits second only behind Ronning in team scoring.
WHO’S ON D:
Matt Barberis: The 19-year-old returns to the Giants lineup after missing the past seven games due to injury. Barberis has four assists in four games against the Blazers and has 29 points through 34 games which ranks him second on the team in scoring among defencemen.
Alex Kannok Leipert: Rookie Alex Kannok Leipert returned to the lineup on Friday against Everett and looked as though he hadn’t skipped a beat. He was named the third star of the game, and logged some reliable minutes for Jason McKee in a variety of situations. With Barberis and Kannok Leipert back healthy, the Giants are now just missing three regulars: Dylan Plouffe, Milos Roman and Owen Hardy.
WHO’S IN GOAL:
David Tendeck: The 18-year-old has been remarkably strong for the Giants in February, especially given the team’s injury situation. Consider this: In eight February appearances, Tendeck is 4-4, but has not had a save percentage lower than .902 in any of those games. In fact his save percentage in those games is a .931. That’s remarkable stuff for the draft eligible netminder who brings an overall record of 22-13-2-2 record into this week’s action.
Surpass the Work-Ethic of the Opponent: The Blazers are going to bring a good, honest effort to every game they play. We know this from a Don Hay coached team. The Giants must be prepared to work, and if they bring the work ethic that they’ve brought to most games this season, they’ll give themselves every opportunity to be successful tonight.