Vancouver's Johnny Wesley and Prince George's Shane Collins battle for position in front of the Cougars net during Tuesday night's WHL game at the Langley Events Centre.

Vancouver's Johnny Wesley and Prince George's Shane Collins battle for position in front of the Cougars net during Tuesday night's WHL game at the Langley Events Centre.

Giants keep digging early holes

Third straight team Vancouver fails to have strong first period

Gary Ahuja

Black Press

The offence found life but the defence remains a work in progress after the Prince George Cougars edged the Vancouver Giants 7-6 on Tuesday night.

The Giants looked dead and buried after surrendering three goals in the first dozen minutes of Tuesday night’s Western Hockey League contest against the Cougars at the Langley Events Centre.

By comparison, the Giants had yet to register a shot.

“It is on us for putting ourselves in that spot. But give the kids credit, they stayed with it, they regrouped and got better as the game went on,” said Giants head coach Jason McKee.

“But we have to learn here that it is three games in a row now where we have started with less than two or three shots in each game.”

Vancouver rallied from a 4-1 first period deficit to tie the game with three goals in 5:09 in the middle portion of the second period.

Dawson Holt won a face-off to Dylan Plouffe and the defenceman’s wrist shot found the back of the net.

Brendan Semchuck then scored on the power play, coming off the half wall and firing the puck glove side.

The fourth goal came after James Malm burst in down the wing with speed, and while his wrap-around was stopped, Taden Rattie poked home the loose puck.

The team’s first goal — and first shot of the game — was a point shot from Alex Kannok-Leipert which found the back of the net.

Prince George would retake the lead with less than a minute go before intermission and the Giants thought they had tied it with six seconds to play, only to have the referee — after a video review — call it no goal.

“They called it no goal on the ice and it had something to do with when the whistle went on the ice. If that’s the case, I guess it is non-reviewable. Tough break for us, I thought it was a good goal for us,” McKee said.

“Things aren’t coming easy for us right now.”

The Cougars would make it 6-4 early in the third on a power-play goal, but the Giants showed some resolve as Darian Skeoch banked a puck in off Jack Flaman’s skate — the forward now has three goals in three games — and less than two minutes later, Radovan Bondra shot hit Ty Edmonds glove and fell into the net, sending the 2,898 fans into a frenzy.

But a turnover behind the Vancouver goal saw Dawson Holt taken down, with Colby McAuley firing the puck into the slot for Jared Bethune to bury for this third goal of the game. The goal came with 4:17 to play and the Giants had no answer.

McKee said the team can’t keep digging itself holes at the start of hockey games.

“We were standing around in the first waiting for someone else to come in and do it for us. Eventually we figured out that we need to do it together and just take care of your own part. Once we started to play, we were fine,” he said.

The team especially needs to clean up its play in its own zone.

“Our own end is an area where we have to get better. We just need to make better decisions with the puck in the danger areas which means we spend less time there,” he said.

In addition to netting a season high in goals — Vancouver had scored four goals in the first 120 minutes — McKee liked the play of Skeoch, who suited up for the first time after returning from Anaheim Ducks camp.

The defenceman finished with one assist and was a plus-2.

“He just settles things down and makes the right decisions back there,” McKee said, adding that as more veterans return from their respective NHL camps, that will help the team.

“A lot of the younger guys just needed to calm down a bit,” Skeoch said, adding that once they followed the structure of the game plan, the entire team’s play improved.

“I always try to keep it simple and lead by example so hopefully I can do that.”

Vancouver went 1-for-6 on the power play while Prince George was 1-for-3.

The Giants are back in action on Friday when they host the Kamloops Blazers at the LEC.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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