It was another night of celebration for the Vancouver Giants, Wednesday as they departed Oregon with another victory under their belt.
The Langley-based hockey team rallied from a 2-1 third-period deficit to defeat the Portland Winterhawks 4-2, explained play-by-play broadcaster Dan O’Connor.
But the triumph down south in this mid-week game was about much more. This victory places them five points shy of both Kelowna and Victoria for first in the B.C. division.
It was also a night of further landmarks for a few of the team’s players.
First up for recognition was Ty Ronning. It was another momentous night for #7, a right-handed 20-year-old Burnaby forward who broke the team record for goals scored in a season this past weekend by reaching 49.
Wednesday night, he left that record in the dust, earning number 50 and 51.
His 50th goal of the season tied the game, and his 51st gave the Giants the lead with less than three minutes to go.
But he wasn’t the only one enjoying a stellar night on the Portland ice, O’Connor said.
He pointed to goaltender David Tendeck, who made 47 saves and put in a “first star performance” en route to the team’s 30th victory of the season.
With 47 saves, Tendeck improved his record to 21-11-2-2. His save percentage is second best in the WHL at .915 and his goals-against-average of 2.91 is third best.
How the game unfolded
Dawson Holt staked the Giants to a 1-0 lead just a minute and 30 seconds in. Holt followed up a James Malm rebound and stuffed home his 10th of the season past Portland starter Cole Kehler. The 1-0 lead held up after one period for the Giants who were outshot 10-8.
Period two was a different story as the Winterhawks outshot the Giants 21-6, while converting on good two of those opportunities.
Portland tied the game at 2:49, when rookie Reece Newkirk tucked his fifth of the season home off a Lukas MacKenzie rebound.
Ryan Hughes then put Portland ahead at 17:02 on a power play, when he shot from the top of the left circle made its way up and over the left shoulder of Tendeck for his 12th of the season.
“The score could have been much worse had it not been for the heroics of Tendeck, who’s best save of the period came off a short-handed break away attempt from Alex Overhardt,” O’Connor recounted.
Shots were 31-14 for Portland after two full periods.
“Tendeck continued to keep his team within striking distance in the third as he thwarted off several good looks from the Winterhawks in the early stages of the third. Eventually Tendeck’s efforts would be rewarded with some offence at the other side courtesy of the Giants leading scorer,” O’Connor said.
Shortly past the midway point of the period, Ronning became the first Vancouver Giant in the history of the franchise to score 50 goals in a season when he crashed the net, and redirected home a Tyler Popowich shot from the right circle.
Ronning wasn’t done.
At 17:32 of the period, he wired a rebound past a sprawled Cole Kehler from the right-wing circle to complete the comeback, giving his team the 3-2 lead.
He then assisted on Brayden Watts’ empty-netter at 19:30 a few minutes later to cement the victory for the visitors.
Final shots were 49-19 for Portland who went one-for-four on the power play.
The Giants went zero-for-two on their power play chances.
With the win the G-Men improve their overall record to 30-18-5-3 and their road record to 13-9-3-2.
It means they’re sitting five points shy of both Kelowna and Victoria for first in the division, and now 12 points up on Kamloops for third. And all that was done without six regular players, including defencemen (Dylan Plouffe, Matt Barberis, and Alex Kannok Leipert), who were off due to injury or illness.
The Winterhawks now sit at 35-19-1-3 and remain two points back of Everett for first in the U.S. division.
Up next for the Giants, a stretch of three games in three nights beginning Friday night at home against the Edmonton Oil Kings. Head coach Jason McKee is hoping to see the team all back together by the weekend, but has shared with the Langley Advance earlier this week that he’s making alternate plans to move up some of the younger players.
For instance, Wednesday was defenceman Joel Sexsmith’s first game with the Giants. The 2002-born player finished his first game with two penalty minutes and a -1 rating.
– The Giants have won 30 games in a season for the first time since 2013-14 (32).