Over the next two weeks, we will revisit all 11 wins during the Vancouver Giants record-matching 11-game regular season winning streak. The streak started on Sunday, January 26th in Kelowna and unfortunately came to an end on Saturday, February 22nd in Everett. Over the course of the streak there were a number of thrilling moments which all helped lead the Giants back into what would end up being a top-two spot in the B.C. Division regular season standings. Today’s journey takes us to Kamloops for the back-half of a home-and-home weekend with the Kamloops Blazers. For a myriad of reasons, this victory sticks out as one of the more noteworthy and memorable ones during the 11-game winning streak.
THE JOURNEY TO KAMLOOPS
Ordinarily, the plan would be to hit Chilliwack around 1:00 PM. The team would stop for a pre-game meal, take their time, and make it Kamloops by around 4:50 PM for a 7:00 PM game. But what’s that line about the “best laid plans?” A closure at Hope and another closure near Merritt meant that the only road to Kamloops was through the Hope-Princeton connector, which conservatively added an extra hour and a half to the team’s commute. Despite the initial delay, the mood on the Giants bus was positive as they were coming off a spirited 5-4 overtime victory the night before, and were now only two points shy of a top-three spot in the B.C. Division standings.
Yes, all was well in the world until they got stuck between Merritt and Kamloops:
Giants forward Tristen Nielsen recalls the mood on the bus:
Yeah that day was crazy, I remember us all being so confused on what was going to happen and how it was all going to work. We knew we were going to arrive late, so it got to a point where our mind-set had to be: Just go into the game and try our best. We knew the odds were against us but we figured if we played the right way hopefully things would work out.
Giants captain Alex Kannok Leipert reflected on the trek to Kamlooops:
The Giants didn’t arrive at the Sandman Centre in Kamloops until 7:07 PM – Seven minutes after the game was originally supposed to start. The puck didn’t drop until close to 8:30 PM.
Josh Pillar opened the scoring for Kamloops at 15:21 on a bizarre play. Fellow Blazer Ryan Hughes had thought he’d scored seconds earlier off a shot from the slot off the rush. Hughes’ shot hit the post, but he followed up his own rebound and tried to bank the puck in off goaltender David Tendeck. The bank attempt didn’t work, but the puck made its way to Pillar who stuffed it home. The 4200 fans in attendance were loving it! Late in the first the G-Men had a glorious chance to tie the game, but Eric Florchuk’s backhand breakaway attempt was denied by Dylan Garand, and the Blazers took a 1-0 lead into the break.
The Blazers started the second period strongly. David Tendeck made a number of A-grade saves in the early minutes to keep his team within striking distance, and at 8:49 his heroics would be rewarded with some offense. Giants leading scorer Tristen Nielsen was sent in alone on a breakaway, made a nifty move to the backhand and tucked his 21st of the season home to even the score. Here’s Nielsen describing the goal:
I remember it all very clearly. Sourds did his job in the d-zone and Milos stayed low and slow as the center. I was fortunate to get that pass going full flight and then from there I just had to put it in the back of the net, which I did.
The turning point of the game came late in the second period, and once again Tristen Nielsen was at the forefront. With the G-Men already on a power play, Nielsen raced wide down the right-wing full speed into the Kamloops zone with the intent of cutting to the front of the net. Blazers defenceman Quinn Schmiemann got his stick caught by Nielsen’s skate and down he went, colliding hard with Blazers goaltender Dylan Garand. Schmiemann was assessed a penalty, and Garand had to be helped off the ice.
In came Blazers backup goaltender Rayce Ramsay, and the Giants had a five-on-three power play chance. Nielsen and his teammates sensed a big-time opportunity:
On the collision with Garand it was a similar play as my breakaway goal, getting a pass on the wide side at full flight. But this time I had more back pressure and when I cut, Schmiemann went to poke the puck and he took my skate out and I hit Garand and the goal-post at full speed.
19 seconds later on the five-on-three advantage, the Giants took a 2-1 lead when Nielsen, show no ill-effects from his collision with Garand and the goal-post, one-timed home his second of the night. 31 seconds later Justin Sourdif notched his 16th goal of the season 31 seconds later on the five-on-four power play to push the Giants lead to 3-1.
The Kamloops Blazers outshot the Giants 18-5 in the third period, and Connor Zary’s goal at 10:46 got the home crowd back into it. But Tendeck and his teammates dug their heels in and held on to secure the weekend sweep of the B.C. Division leaders. Here’s a final thought from Tristen Nielsen:
Winning that game just have us more confidence. They were the top team in our division and we needed to prove to ourselves that we could beat them. We knew we had to play the right way and tried to take away their time and space as best as possible. Tendeck played great in goal. It was a huge weekend for us.
JAMIE HEWARD POST-GAME COMMENTS:
Final Score: Vancouver 3 – Kamloops 2
Final Shots: 42 – 26 Kamloops
David Tendeck: 40/42 saves for Vancouver (14-13-1-1)
Dylan Garand: 17/18 saves for Kamloops
Rayce Ramsay: 6/8 saves for Kamloops (6-4-1-0)
Vancouver Power Play: 2/4
Kamloops Power Play: 0/3
- David Tendeck (VAN – 40 Saves)
- Zane Franklin (KAM – 2 shots)
- Ryan Hughes (KAM – 2 Assists)
Next Giants Game: A Tuesday home showdown against the Tri-City Americans (February 4th) at 7:00 PM.
- With the win, the Giants (22-20-3-2) jumped ahead of Kelowna for third place in the B.C. Division. Both the Giants and the Rockets had 49 points, but Vancouver had played in two fewer games and had a higher winning percentage.
- The Giants improved to 10-0 on the season when Tristen Nielsen and Justin Sourdif recorded multi-point games.
- The win helped the G-Men improve their road record to 12-10-1-2.