The newest member of the Vancouver Giants had a huge night against his former team.
And just a week of practice with his new team paid huge dividends for Eric Florchuk.
Acquired at the Western Hockey League trade deadline last week and inserted into the line-up without any practice time, Florchuk fit right in with three assists in his first two games for the Vancouver Giants.
But with a week of practice time now under his belt, Florchuk scored three times on a new line – with Milos Roman and Cole Shepard – as the Giants knocked off the Victoria Royals 4-1 on Friday night at Langley Events Centre.
The win snapped a five-game winless streak as Vancouver was 0-3-1-1 to start the month.
“We managed the puck well, played simple and got pucks to the net. And at the end of the day, the puck went my way,” said Florchuk, who scored once in all three periods, with the first two goals coming off great passes from Roman and the third a solo effort after he stole the puck in the neutral zone and scored into the empty net.
“It was good to get three. I hadn’t scored since the last game before Christmas. But it was my first game playing with Milos and Cole and it was good to find that early chemistry with them tonight,” Florchuk said, after his three-goal performance.
🧢 GO WITH THE 'FLO' 🧢
A hat-trick from Eric Florchuk helped guide the Giants to a spirited 4-1 victory over the Victoria Royals on Friday at the @LangleyEvents. A big rematch looms tomorrow night on the Island.
More 📎: https://t.co/baTXJ0wI8Q
— Vancouver Giants (@WHLGiants) January 18, 2020
Roman and Shepard finished with two assists apiece and the trio was a combined +8.
Vancouver and Victoria were playing the start of a home-and-home series between the bitter BC division rivals. And if the first game was any indication, there should be plenty of bad blood for the rematch on Saturday in the provincial capital.
Friday’s contest featured three scraps, plenty of post-whistle jawing and had a definite playoff feel to it.
“We are approaching this (weekend) with a playoff mentality. This could very well be a team we see in the playoffs,” said head coach Michael Dyck.
Calling Victoria their biggest rival, Dyck described it as a big game for the Giants.
“We wanted to come out with a lot of energy in front of our fans tonight,” he said, confident the G-Men did just that.
“I think the fans got treated to a pretty entertaining game. There were some goals, there were some scraps. I thought we played really well as a team.”
The Royals (25-14-3-0) sit second in the BC division with 53 points, while the Giants (18-18-2-2) are in fourth place with 40 points. Vancouver also improved to 15-0-0-0 when they score four goals or more.
The lone Victoria goal came from Keanu Derungs, who ruined David Tendeck’s shutout bid with just over five minutes to play. The Giants goaltender was the game’s second star with a 27-save performance. He was especially big on the penalty kill as Vancouver found itself short-handed six times, including three times in the first period alone.
“A lot of our PK (success) comes from our preparation, but also the best guy out there tonight was Dave (Tendeck) so it is pretty easy penalty killing when you have a guy like that back there,” said captain Alex Kannok Leipert.
The job at hand now, Kannok Leipert said, is to prepare for Saturday’s rematch on Vancouver Island.
While Dyck was happy with the result and his team’s emotions, he also knows it is a fine line the team must straddle.
“Sometimes (our emotions) weren’t in check, but we would rather bet on our toes and be over-aggressive in this situation,” he said.
Friday’s victory also marked the return of defenceman Bowen Byram to the line-up as he had missed the previous 10 games while helping Canada win gold at the IIHF World Junior Hockey Championships in the Czech Republic.
And while Byram didn’t factor onto the scoresheet, finishing with just one shot on goal, his presence was felt in other ways.
“He added so much calmness and such high-level skill ability just to make plays and get guys out of trouble,” Kannok Leipert said.
In addition to the Royals rematch, the Giants wrap up a busy three games in 48 hours with a Sunday matinee at 4 p.m. back at Langley Events Centre against the division-leading Kamloops Blazers.
VAN – 3:29 into the opening period, Eric Florchuk (12) potted his first goal of the night from the high slot off a corner feed from Milos Roman. Cole Shepard also assisted on Florchuk’s first goal as a Giant.
Shots: 12-10 Vancouver
VAN – Connor Horning (4) extended the lead to 2-0 for Vancouver at 6:31. Horning one-timed home a feed from Michal Kvasnica from the left-wing circle. Cole Shepard added his second assist of the night on the play.
VAN – Eric Florchuk (13) struck again for Vancouver at 14:03. Once again it was Milos Roman who stole the puck off a Royals defender behind their net before centering a pass to the front of the net for Florchuk.
Shots: 10 – 8 Victoria
VIC – Keanu Derungs put Victoria on the board at 14:33 in close on a backhander that snuck through the legs of David Tendeck. Derungs’ 12th goal of the season was set up by Kaid Oliver and Tarun Fizer.
VAN – With 15 seconds left in the game, Eric Florchuk (14) completed his hat-trick with a shot into the empty Victoria net from the right-wing.
Shots: 9-8 Vancouver.
BY THE NUMBERS
Final score: Vancouver 4 – Victoria 1
Final shots: 29 – 28 Vancouver
David Tendeck: 27/28 saves (11-11-1-1)
Adam Evanoff: 25/28 saves (5-14-1-0)
Vancouver power play: 0/2
Victoria power play: 0/6
3 Stars: Eric Florchuk (VAN – 3 goals); David Tendeck (VAN – 27 saves); and Cole Shepard (VAN – 2 assists)
Eric Florchuk’s hat-trick Friday was the second of his WHL career. It also marked the first for a Giant since October 3rd, 2018. That night James Malm scored three times for the Giants in a 5-0 road victory in Kelowna. His previous hat-trick came earlier this season on October 14th in Calgary.
Both of Connor Horning’s goals this season with the Giants have been game-winners.
The Giants improved their record against Victoria to 2-3 on the season.
With the victory the Giants moved within five points of Kelowna for third place in the B.C. Division standings. The Giants hold two games in hand on the Rockets.
Prior to the game, the Giants induced former general manager Scott Bonner to the team’s Wall of Honour.
On hand for the ceremony were former players Nolan Toigo, Kyle Lamb, Tyson Sexsmith, Craig Cunningham, and Evander Kane – while Brendan Gallagher and Milan Lucic sent video messages.
The Giants once again congratulated Scott, and the entire Bonner family, for their many positive contributions towards the legacy of the Vancouver Giants.
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