The series only went five games, but it was a hard fought five games.
Three were one-goal games, including two that needed overtime, but the Vancouver Giants battled through and earned their spot in the WHL Final for the first time in 12 years.
“It was a grind. Five game series but it was a battle, every game was a battle. We had to fight for everything we got.” coach Michael Dyck had to say about it being a short, yet tough series.
The Giants took Game 1 by a score of 4-1 with goals from Lukas Svejkovsky, Dawson Holt, Owen Hardy, and Bowen Byram. Spokane’s goal was scored by Adam Beckman off a bad bounce from the corner boards that would ignite the Giants’ Game 2 comeback.
Game 2 was all Spokane for the first two periods where they held a 2-0 lead until the 5:15 mark of the third. The Giants then rung off four goals in just 3:21, including two goals from Jared Dmytriw in 22 seconds and Yannik Valenti’s first goal since November, making the LEC crowd the loudest it has been all season and giving the Giants a 2-0 series lead going into Spokane.
“It was pretty crazy. I thought the roof was going to come down, I’ve never heard the LEC so loud. Having the crowd behind us like that was awesome.” Bowen Byram had to say following the Game 2 comeback.
Just like the Victoria series, there were back-to-back games in Spokane that both required overtime to find a winner.
Despite not playing their best hockey, the Giants answered back from two separate one-goal deficits in Game 3 thanks to goals from Justin Sourdif and Jared Dmytriw, with the captain’s goal coming with just three minutes left in regulation. Spokane’s Jake McGrew gave the Chiefs their only win of the series with the overtime winner at 8:51.
Game 4 showed shades of Game 2 as Vancouver entered the third period down 2-0. The team showed their resiliency yet again, scoring three goals in less than six minutes (including the second and third goals just 53 seconds apart) to take their first lead of the hockey game. The Chiefs showed some pushback of their own when Jake McGrew tied the game with about three and a half minutes left to send the game to overtime for the second game in a row. It took over half of the overtime period again, in the second consecutive game that could have gone to either team, for Dawson Holt to send the Giants back to Langley with a 3-1 series lead with his third goal of the series.
Vancouver scored twice in the opening frame, including a shorthanded highlight reel goal from Bowen Byram, giving the Giants a 2-0 lead until the third period. The Chiefs came into the Western Conference Final with their powerplay with a success rate over 50% in the first two rounds, as well as first in the WHL during the regular season. It took until Game 5 for Spokane to capitalize on a powerplay when Jaret Anderson-Dolan snuck one through the legs of David Tendeck to cut the Giants’ lead in half for a short time. The Giants regained the two-goal lead just 21 seconds later with Brayden Watts’ fifth of the playoffs that stood up as the series-clinching goal with the Chiefs adding a late marker to make for a dramatic finish to send the Giants to the league final.
A big key to the Giants’ success was the penalty kill and discipline, allowing just 10 powerplays with four of them coming in the deciding game. The penalty kill went 9-of-10 in the series, allowing the lone goal on the Chiefs’ final powerplay of the series.
“Our penalty kill was the difference in this series. Their powerplay is so potent and for us to do what we did in this series, I mean, their powerplay was clicking at over 50% in the previous two series against two really good teams, so that was a big part of it.” Michael Dyck said about his team’s penalty kill against the Chiefs.
Vancouver now focuses on the WHL Final which will be played against the Prince Albert Raiders in what will be a great series as the two #1 seeds will face off starting on Friday, May 3rd in Prince Albert.
Dylan Plouffe described what the feeling is like to have come this far heading into the Final.
“It’s unbelievable, looking at the start of the year, where we came from and all the way to this point…it’s been a journey. Every single guy in there laid it on the line in the last few weeks and we’re not done yet.”
Stay tuned in the coming days for a WHL Final Preview ahead of Friday’s Game 1 in Prince Albert.