The biggest crowd of the season at the Langley Events Centre was rocking for the Giants’ 4-1 win over Spokane in Game 1 of the Western Conference Championship series.
The sellout crowd of the 4917 was energetic and loud all night, creating a great junior hockey playoff atmosphere and giving the home team a big boost.
— Stephen Hawco (@stephenhawco7) April 20, 2019
Things got off to an unfortunate start for Spokane with the loss of overage forward Luc Smith just two minutes into the game with what appeared to be a right leg injury. The veteran of over 300 WHL games could not put any weight on his leg and went straight to the dressing room and did not return.
The Chiefs put on some early pressure, not allowing a shot for the first four minutes of the period.
The momentum shifted in the Giants’ favour thanks to an early power play less than five minutes in.
Lukas Svejkovsky got the Giants on the board on their first of just two power plays on the night, with a well placed shot from the top of the right side circle for his fourth of these playoffs.
Vancouver doubled their lead just over two minutes later when 19-year-old Dawson Holt scored his third goal of the playoffs, pouncing on a loose puck in front of the Spokane net and roofing it on his backhand.
The line of Jared Dmytriw, Owen Hardy, and Dawson Holt combined for six points in Game 1, including three points from Hardy (1G, 2A). The trio has been a huge bright spot for this Giants team, amassing 29 points in 11 playoff games between them.
“We know our role and what keeps us playing our best game. It’s keeping our feet moving, finishing our checks, cycling the puck…just wearing teams down. When we do that, we seem to have big games.” Hardy said about his line has done consistently throughout the playoffs.
Owen Hardy’s goal came just 57 seconds into the middle frame to put the Giants up 3-0 off of a feed from his aforementioned line mate Dawson Holt.
Arizona Coyotes prospect David Tendeck was given the nod for Game 1 after leading the team to a Game 4 win over Victoria to get them to where they are now. The back-to-back games for a Giants goaltender is something that hasn’t been seen since Game 4 of the first round Seattle series.
“He’s (Tendeck) 19 years old, I thought he played real well in Game 4 of the Victoria series and practiced well all week, along with Trent (Miner), but it was more just a feel.” Head Coach Michael Dyck had to say when asked about the thought process of deciding on a goalie for Game 1.
Tendeck made 30 saves on the night, with the only blemish coming from a bad bounce of the corner boards that popped out right into the slot onto the stick of Chiefs rookie Adam Beckman to bring the Chiefs back to being down by two.
“He was real good outside of the bad bounce, he was near perfect and bailed us out a few times when Spokane got some momentum.” said Dyck about Tendeck’s performance.
His best save of the night was a sliding save to rob Chiefs forward Eli Zummack of a goal.
— The WHL (@TheWHL) April 20, 2019
A major part of the Giants’ success was holding off the best power play in the WHL of both the regular reason and playoffs, killing off both penalties they were given and holding off the Chiefs’ big guns such as Jaret Anderson-Dolan and defenceman Ty Smith to -2 ratings which will need to continue throughout the series.
Despite some constant pressure from one of the league’s most potent offence, as the clock started ticking down in the third period, the Giants were able to defend strongly and have impressive goaltending to hold them off.
Bowen Byram sealed the game with an empty net goal with just under two minutes remaining in regulation.
Vancouver needs to continue to keep the Chiefs offence asleep heading into Game 2 as they know how to score, having the highest Goals For in the WHL. Game 2 goes Saturday night at 7pm before the teams head south of the border for Games 3 and 4 in Spokane.