The Vancouver Giants earned a point against the top team in the Western Hockey League Tuesday at the Langley Events Centre, but the team was instead left ruing a point that got away after a 4-3 loss to the first-place Prince George Cougars.
The Giants led their visiting B.C. Division rivals late in the third period, until – after killing off a pair of penalties and keeping the Cougar offence at bay – defenceman Brendan Guhle fired a wrist shot from a tough angle that somehow got through Vancouver netminder Ryan Kubic with 42 seconds left to play.
Kubic had made more than 40 saves up until that point in the game.
In three-on-three overtime, Prince George’s Brad Morrison capitalized on a puck handling gaffe, stole the puck from the Vancouver defender and went in and scored on Kubic.
“Too cute at the blue-line. Trying to make a two-foot play in a one-foot area,” Giants coach Jason McKee said of the defensive error.
The overtime-loss point improved Vancouver’s record to 10-16-1-1 (win-loss-overtime loss-shootout loss), and comes on the heels of a tough U.S. road trip in which the struggling team earned just one of a possible six points.
Still, McKee wasn’t pleased with how Tuesday’s game ended, nor the final goal.
“(Kubic) did a great job – didn’t like the (tying goal). It’s one I thought he should’ve had, and it’s too bad because he was so good for us, getting us to that point,” the coach said.
“Seeing that one go in, it was tough.”
Defensively, he also wasn’t pleased to see his squad give up 46 shots on goal, and also admitted his team has work to do in its own zone.
“Their four goals are four turnovers on our part, and against that team, you turns pucks over like that… and they’re going to put them in the back of the net,” McKee said.
“We played them tooth and nail to the end, but we’re disappointed with how it ended.”
Matt Barberis, who scored a power-play goal for the Giants, said the team played well but just couldn’t execute at the end.
“It’s tough. We have to play the full 60 (minutes). We can’t let up in the last 30 seconds. We just have to focus on playing the complete game,” he said.
The defenceman also credited his goaltender for helping them earn the single point.
“Kubs was awesome. He played really well today, and unfortunately we couldn’t get the win for him,” Barberis said.
The game began tentatively for both teams, with neither pushing the pace until midway through the opening period when Prince George forward Jansen Harkins – a North Vancouver native – gave the visitors a 1-0 lead at the 10:27 mark when he pounced on a rebound off a Jesse Gabrielle shot that Kubic had attempted to direct to his right.
Six minutes later, Vancouver drew even with the Cougars when Ty Ronning – who started the play by chipping the puck into the Prince George zone – scooped up a rebound off his own shot and slid the puck across the line.
Before the first intermission, the Cougars would restore a one-goal lead thanks again to the Harkins-Gabrielle combination, though this time it was Gabrielle who lit the lamp, scoring on a great effort that saw his beat a Giants defenceman wide and cut to the net.
The Giants came out for the second frame with plenty of jump, and after sustained pressure in the Cougars’ end of the ice, were rewarded with a power-play goal from Barberis.
Near the end of the period, Radovan Bondra – who assisted on Barberis’s goal – scored his 17th of the season to give the home team the lead, which held up until the final minute of the third.
“There’s areas of his game he needs to work on… but he brings us offence, and offence is something that hasn’t come easy for us,” McKee said of Bondra, his six-foot-five winger.
Next up for the Giants is a Friday home game against the visiting Brandon Wheat Kings. Puck drop is 7:30 p.m.