PREVIEW: Vancouver Giants vs. Portland Winterhawks (Game #30)
Tonight at the Langley Events Centre the Vancouver Giants take the ice for the home portion of a home-and-home showdown against the Portland Winterhawks. Tonight marks the first of four meetings between these Western Conference rivals with the back-half of the home-and-home showdown scheduled for Friday night in Portland. The Giants are coming off a 6-2 road loss Saturday in Prince George while the Winterhawks dropped a 4-0 home game Sunday to Saskatoon. The Giants are still two points ahead of the Kamloops Blazers for third in the B.C. Division standings while the Winterhawks hold the best record in the Western Conference with a record of 20-5-0-1.
Road Record: 11-1-0-1
Last Game: A 4-0 loss at home Sunday to Saskatoon.
Last 10: 8-1-0-1
Goals For/Goals Against: 115/64 (+51)
Power Play: 32.1% (2nd in WHL)
Penalty Kill: 82.3% (2nd in WHL)
Leading Scorers: Cody Glass (26GP – 18G – 28A – 46PTS), Skyler McKenzie (26GP – 20G – 17A – 37PTS), Kiefer Bellows (26GP – 18G – 19A – 37PTS)
WHO’S UP FRONT:
Cody Glass: The 18-year-old was the first ever draft pick of the Vegas Golden Knights. Last season he finished seventh in WHL scoring with 32 goals and 62 assists for 94 points. So far this season he’s notched 19 goals and 28 assists for 47 points. He was the WHL’s November Player of the month after posting 13 goals and 13 assists for 26 points in 12 games.
Skyler McKenzie: Last season the 19-year-old prospect of the Winnipeg Jets had two goals and three assists for five points in four games against the Giants. He had 42 goals and 42 assists for 84 points finishing second in team scoring behind only Cody Glass. So far this season he has 20 goals and 17 assists for 37 points through 26 games.
WHO’S ON D:
Henri Jokiharju: The first-round draft pick of the Chicago Blackhawks sits second in league scoring among defencemen with seven goals and 28 assists (35 points). Only Brandon’s Kale Clague has more points. Jokiharju’s +30 rating is tied for the best in the WHL along with teammate Cody Glass.
Keoni Texeira: The 20-year-old has been one of the most consistent and durable performers for the Winterhawks throughout his WHL career. He’s already suited up in 304 career games and is on pace (when all is said and done) to sit second all-time in games played by a Winterhawk. So far this season the captain has five goals and 10 assists for 15 points through 26 games played.
WHO’S IN GOAL:
Cole Kehler: The 20-year-old has been outstanding so far this season for the Winterhawks. In 20 appearances he’s put together a record of 17-2-0-1. His save percentage of .938 is the second best among all ‘starting’ goaltenders and his goals-against-average of 1.94 is second behind only Everett’s Carter Hart.
Special Teams: This team has the second-best power play and penalty kill in the entire WHL. There can be no shortcuts and no shifts off tonight for the Giants against the Winterhawks who up to this point are considered a favorite to come out of the Western Conference.
Home Record: 7-6-0-1
Last Game: A 6-2 loss Saturday in Prince George
Last 10: 5-5-0-0
Goals For/Goals Against: 106/114 (-8)
Power Play: 24.1% (8th in WHL)
Penalty Kill: 73.8% (19th in WHL)
Leading Scorers: Ty Ronning (29GP – 26G – 12A – 38PTS), Brad Morrison (29GP – 9G – 21A – 30PTS), James Malm (29GP – 12G – 17A – 29PTS)
WHO’S UP FRONT:
Tyler Benson: The Giants captain will be named the Giants November Player of the Month prior to puck drop tonight. In 12 November games he scored eight goals and added 12 assists for 20 points. Through 16 games, Benson has scored 11 goals along with 13 assists for 24 points. He’s recorded at least a point in six of his past seven games.
Ty Ronning: The Giants leading scorer comes into tonight’s game with 26 goals and 12 assists on the season for a team-high 38 points. Last season Ronning led all Giants in scoring against Portland with a goal and three assists for four points. He’s recorded points in three of his last four heading into tonight.
WHO’S ON D:
Dylan Plouffe: The 18-year-old comes into tonight’s game tied for 12th in league scoring among defencemen with four goals and 18 assists for 22 points. He’s already one point ahead of his point totals from a season ago and is just one goal shy of reaching a new season high in that regard. He’ll play some big minutes tonight against Portland’s top forwards.
Darian Skeoch: The Giants are going to need a strong collective effort defensively from everybody, but especially Skeoch. The 20-year-old is as aggressive as they come in the WHL and the Giants will need to make the front of the net a scary place for Portland’s talented forwards. A big game from Skeoch would go a long way tonight for the Giants.
WHO’S IN GOAL:
David Tendeck?: If we go based on the rotation, David Tendeck is in line for the start tonight at home. He’s coming off a victory Friday night up North in Prince George. For the season Tendeck is 7-6-0-1 with a 3.44 goals-against-average and an .898 save percentage. A strong outing tonight from Tendeck could also put him in line for a start Friday as the Giants have a few days off before they face the Winterhawks again down South.
Patience: The Giants need to play a smart, patient type of game at home tonight. If they get into a run-and-gun style of game, it could be a tough night considering Portland’s depth and talent. But if the Giants can stay disciplined, structured and patient with the puck they have the talent to hang with a team like the Winterhawks. The Giants have played some great hockey against some of the league’s best all season long and they’ll need to bring a similar type of attitude into tonight’s game at home.