It was more of a finger painting than a Picasso oil painting, but a depleted Vancouver Giants squad will take the ‘W.’
Missing four key defenceman (Dylan Plouffe, Darian Skeoch, Matt Barberis, and Alex Kannok Leipert), hard-working left winger Owen Hardy and highly skilled import forward Milos Roman from their lineup, the Giants eked out a 2-1 victory over the Edmonton Oil Kings in front of 3,484 fans Friday night at the Langley Events Centre.
“At this time of year, there’s no grades, it’s finding ways,” Giants head coach Jason McKee said. “Guys are tired and we’ve got two more (games) to go (this weekend). It’s just finding ways to grind things out and that’s how we evaluate. If we get two points at the end of the night, we’ll take it with the situation we’re in.”
The G-Men knew going in they would be in for a dogfight.
Even though the Oil Kings came into the LEC with just 17 wins in 56 games and were tied with the Calgary Hitmen for the fewest points in the entire Western Hockey League, they were riding a three-game win streak, and had upset B.C. Division-powerhouse Victoria Royals 7-6 in a shootout Wednesday in Victoria.
“They’re better than their record,” McKee said, regarding the Oil Kings. “They’re healthy now, more than they’ve been and they’ve obviously been on a pretty good role lately and have beaten some pretty good teams. We knew we would have our hands full. There’s no easy nights and they (the Oil Kings) are a better team than when they started the year and they showed that tonight. They pushed us right to the end.”
And a fight it was, with the visitors outshooting the G-Men 14-2 in the third period and 31-23 overall.
Giants goaltender David Tendeck was a big reason why the Giants came away with their 31st victory of the campaign.
McKee praised his 18-year-old puckstopper.
“He’s definitely been a difference-maker all year,” McKee said. “That’s the evolution of a starting goalie. I think he earned his spot last year and this year he’s become a starter and that’s what you need.”
The Giants looked the part of the favourite early on.
It took the home team all of 14 seconds to open the scoring, with captain Tyler Benson sweeping his 20th of the season past Oil Kings goaltender Josh Dechaine.
GOOOOOOOALLLLLL!!!!!@TylerBenson_17 scores 14 seconds into the game!!! 1-0 Giants!!
— Vancouver Giants (@WHLGiants) February 17, 2018
Benson was in on the Giants’ second goal, scored fewer than two minutes later, when Brayden Watts cashed in on a Vancouver power play and it looked like the Giants were on their way.
But the Oil Kings wouldn’t go away.
Edmonton’s Brett Kemp struck 1:05 into the second period on a power play, knocking in a rebound off a Connor McDonald shot that handcuffed Tendeck.
The second period was a slugfest with the Oil Kings dishing out the brunt of the hitting.
The middle frame also included a spirited tilt involving the Giants’ Hunor Torzsok and Oil Kings’ Davis Murray.
The two dropped their gloves and squared off at centre ice like a couple of gunslingers. Torzsok tried a ‘Superman punch’ that missed its mark before the two combatants grabbed each other’s jerseys and went Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots on each other before they fell to the ice.
A classy start to the game, as Giants alum Evander Kane congratulated Giants winger Ty Ronning on breaking his franchise record for goals in a season (48). Kane, a fixture on the Buffalo Sabres top six forward group, was shown on the overhead centre-ice jumbotron applauding Ronning on his accomplishment.
Ronning, who is up to 51 goals and had 15 tallies in his past 12 games before Friday, was held off the scoresheet on this night.
This is the start of a brutal weekend, scheduling-wise, for the Giants who are still a long way away from getting completely healthy.
They ferry over to Victoria to play the Royals tomorrow night (Feb. 18) and return to the LEC Sunday afternoon for a 4 p.m. contest against the visiting Red Deer Rebels.