It’s one of the most notable upsets in WHL history. Vancouver (24-39-5-0) finished 47 points behind the front-running Silvertips (45-13-5-5)

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The Vancouver Giants, who lost 11 of their final 12 regular season games and grabbed the last playoff spot in the WHL’s Western Conference by a single point, are onto the second round of the post-season.

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The Giants beat the Everett Silvertips 6-3 Monday night before an announced crowd of 3,322 at the Langley Events Center to win their best-of-seven quarterfinal series in six games and become the first No. 8 seed to beat a No. 1 in the opening round of the playoffs since the WHL went to a 16-team post-season in 2002.

It’s one of the most notable upsets in WHL history. Vancouver (24-39-5-0) finished 47 points behind the front-running Silvertips (45-13-5-5).

Vancouver now faces the No. 2 seeded Kamloops Blazers (48-17-3-0) in the best-of-seven conference semifinals. The series will start this weekend in Kamloops.

“We always knew that we were capable of some pretty special things,” said Giants coach Michael Dyck. “It was just a matter of things falling into line. There are many points during the season where we wondered if that was ever going to happen.

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“It felt like anytime we’d start to get traction there’d be injuries or a suspension…it was one step forward, one step back. It’s finally nice to get some traction and start moving forward.”


NEXT GAME

Friday: Game 1

Vancouver Giants vs. Kamloops Blazers

7 pm, Sandman Centre, Radio: Sportsnet 650


The Silvertips were injury riddled in this series. We’ll get into that later.

The Giants had been a riddle all year. They’ve been an enigma. A six-game win streak had them jump into national rankings at No. 10 on Dec. 8. They never won more than two games in a row in the regular season after that. They were 4-13-2-0 in the final two months and they were 1-10-1-0 down the stretch.

Vancouver wound up in a three-way tie for sixth spot with the Spokane Chiefs (24-39-4-1) and Prince George Cougars (24-39-4-1) and they were slotted eighth after the mathematical tiebreakers. The Victoria Royals (23-39-5-1) were a mere one point back, left on the outside looking in for the playoffs.

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With the pressure suddenly off facing the Silvertips, the Giants put together their most consistent and cohesive efforts of the season.

Monday was their third win in a row, marking their longest streak since December.

The power play, which felt like it underachieved all year considering it featured the highly skilled Fabian Lysell and Alex Cotton, caught fire against Everett, connecting at 38.7 per cent (12-for-31). It was 18th in the regular season, working at 17.7 per cent (43-of-243). They had the lowest ranked power play of any playoff team.

The rearguard quartet of Cotton, Connor Horning, Mazden Leslie and Damian Palmieri scored for Vancouver on Monday, as did center Zack Ostapchuk and winger Adam Hall. Ostapchuk and Lysell both had four assists.

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Forwards Ben Hemmerling and Ryan Hofer and defenseman Jonny Lambos replied for Everett.

Jesper Vikman made 22 saves for the Giants. Braden Holt stopped 32 for Everett.

Here’s what else we learned.


Everett Silvertips forward Caden Zaplitny (12) and Vancouver Giants center Colton Langkow fight during the first period of Game 6 of their opening round WHL series at the Langley Events Center on Monday night.
Everett Silvertips forward Caden Zaplitny (12) and Vancouver Giants center Colton Langkow fight during the first period of Game 6 of their opening round WHL series at the Langley Events Center on Monday night. Photo by Rob Wilton/Vancouver Giants /jpg

Injury woes take toll on ‘Tips offense

The Silvertips went into Monday’s game without Niko Huuhtanen, who was Everett’s leading scorer in this series with 10 points, including five goals. The Finnish winger and Tampa Bay Lightning prospect left Saturday’s Game 5 in Everett in the second period, needing help off the ice while favoring his right leg. Huuhtanen was diving for a puck near the Vancouver blue line when Ostapchuk fell on top of him after being hit by Everett defenseman Ronan Seeley.

Everett has been without Jackson Berezowski all series due to an injury he picked up in the second-to-last regular season game and the Silvertips lost center Michal Gut to an undisclosed injury sometime in Game 3.

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Berezowski (46 goals), Huuhtanen (37) and Gut (18) combined to sore 101 goals in the regular season.

The Silvertips announced Sunday that Berezowski had recently undergone season-ending surgery on an upper body injury.

Hofer was playing with a full face shield. I have left Game 5 for a while.

“Obviously missing their captain really hurt them,” Dyck said of Berezowski. “Losing Gut and Huuhtanen created big holes with the offence.

“We know what it’s like. We’ve been through our fair share of injuries. It’s always a challenge but especially in the playoffs.”

Meanwhile, Vancouver was once again without winger Payton Mount, who got hurt in Game 2. Everett center Alex Swetlikoff received an additional two-game suspension for the hit on Mount that landed Swetlikoff a checking from behind double minor.

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Giants coach Michael Dyck talked about concussion concerns for Mount.

Vancouver also scratched wingers Jacob Boucher and Cole Shepard.


Vancouver Giants forward Adam Hall (12) carries the puck against the Everett Silvertips in Game 6 of their first round WHL series at the Langley Events Center on Monday night.
Vancouver Giants forward Adam Hall (12) carries the puck against the Everett Silvertips in Game 6 of their first round WHL series at the Langley Events Center on Monday night. Photo by Rob Wilton/Vancouver Giants /jpg

Game 3 turning point?

Everett coach Dennis Williams called a timeout with 1:00 in Game 3 with his team up 6-2 and about to go on a power play. Dyck was noticeably angry that night, yelling at Williams as it was happening. And Giants players seemed peeved about it, too, going off the demeanor on their bench that night.

Vancouver won the next three games by a combined score of 20-9.

Dyck wasn’t biting when asked about it Monday. For what it’s worth, he and Williams are good friends. Williams was Dyck’s assistant for Team Canada at the 2019 Hlinka Gretzky Cup and they were assistants together at worlds juniors.

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“I’m not going to say that was a turning point,” Dyck explained. “I’m going to say this: I don’t think we ever quit believing that we could win the series.”

Home ice disadvantage

The Giants struggled at the LEC throughout the regular season. They went 10-20-4-0 there, which was the lowest home win total in franchise history.

Vancouver was 12-17-1 at home in their expansion year in 2001-02. They were 12-20-2-2 at home in 2016-17.

This season’s home win total was second worst in the WHL, ahead of only the 8-25-1-0 Medicine Hat Tigers.

Conversely, the Winnipeg Ice had the league’s best home record with a 29-3-1-1 mark. The Silvertips were third, at 26-4-1-3.


Vancouver Giants players Mazden Leslie (47), Kyle Bochek (23) and Justin Lies (36) celebrating Mazden's first period goal against the Everett Silvertips during Game 6 of their opening round WHL series at the Langley Events Center on Monday night.
Vancouver Giants players Mazden Leslie (47), Kyle Bochek (23) and Justin Lies (36) celebrating Mazden’s first period goal against the Everett Silvertips during Game 6 of their opening round WHL series at the Langley Events Center on Monday night. Photo by Rob Wilton/Vancouver Giants /jpg

looking ahead

The Giants went 2-9-1-0 against the Blazers this season. They are 15-17-2-0 against Kamloops over the last five years.

Logan Stankoven had nine goals and 20 points in 12 games against Vancouver. Matthew Seminoff added six goals and 14 points.

Lysell had five goals and 10 points in the series for Vancouver. Ostapchuk had six goals and seven points.

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