Home ice run boosts Giants confidence going into Game 3 with Everett

Opening-round playoff series tied 1-1 going into Game 3 at LEC, where Vancouver had 13-game points streak (12-0-1-0) between January and March

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Centre Kyren Gronick insists the Vancouver Giants “trust ourselves a lot more on home ice.”

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The Giants were ordinary overall at the Langley Events Centre during the regular season, coming in with a 19-12-3-0 mark that was the 14th best home record in the 22-team WHL. However, there was a span of extraordinary in the midst of all that — a 13-game points streak (12-0-1-0) that occurred between Jan. 3 and March 15.

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That’s what Gronick is pointing at, and if Vancouver can recapture that form and that feeling, their chances of upsetting the Everett Silvertips in the first round of these playoffs gets a boost.

The No. 3 seeded Silvertips (45-18-2-3) and the No. 6 Giants (32-32-4-0) meet Wednesday at the LEC, looking to break a 1-1 deadlock in their best-of-seven post-season set. Game 4 is Friday at the LEC.

“It gives us confidence. I think that record (during that second-half run) shows that,” Gronick said of playing in Langley. “These are huge games. These are games you want to play in. We hope that we can keep that record going here.

“We’ve been counted out. We’re not supposed to be tied 1-1 with these guys, but we don’t look at that, we don’t listen to that. We’re coming to play and trying to win hockey games, and we feed off each other.”

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Vancouver notched a 6-4 win in Everett in Game 1 on Friday, led by two goals from rookie winger Cameron Schmidt. Everett recorded a 2-1 victory in Game 2 at home Saturday, behind two goals from forward Austin Roest.

Vancouver and Everett were knotted 1-1 in the first round going into Game 3 in Langley two years ago. The Silvertips came away with a 6-2 win then, but then proceeded to lose the next three games to fall in the series.

There were 27 points separating the Silvertips and Giants in this year’s regular season, but that playoff two years ago was between a No. 1 Everett (45-13-5-5) and a No. 8 Vancouver (24-39-5-0) and those clubs were 47 points apart. It was the first time since the WHL went to its 16-team playoffs in 2002 that a No. 8 had beaten a No. 1.

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That series is bound to become more of a talking point the longer this series continues.

“We’re confident. We have no doubts in our team. We love each other and we are fighting for each other,” Gronick.

Getting an early lead Wednesday would seem to be paramount for both teams. Everett were 28-2-0-1 when leading after the first period in the regular season. Only the Portland Winterhawks (38-4-3-0) had more wins in that regard. Vancouver was 21-3-0-0 when leading after one. Only nine teams in the league had 20 more of more wins in that category.

Vancouver got a Schmidt goal on a breakaway just 43 seconds into Game 1 and held a 4-2 margin after the first. Roest had the lone goal of the first period in Game 2.

“Our start in Game 1 was unreal and it led to a win,” said Vancouver winger Ty Halaburda. “Our start is huge.”

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Everett came into this series with points in 12 straight games (10-0-1-1) and they went 3-1-0-0 against the Giants this season. The teams’ last meeting came on Feb. 3, and Vancouver won that one 4-3 at the LEC.

That was part of Vancouver’s aforementioned home ice streak as well as their 16-6-2-0 surge between Jan. 3 and March 3 that took the Giants from battling for the eighth and final playoff spot in the West to challenging for fourth and the home-ice advantage in the first round that went with it. Vancouver went 3-5-0-0 in the last three weeks of league play. They still had a shot to finish fourth going into the final weekend, but lost 6-2 to the Kelowna Rockets at home on Friday and 5-2 in Kelowna on Saturday.

Vancouver’s second half was bolstered by the return from long-term injury by Gronick (who came back in late January after missing two months), the return from world junior commitments by winger Samuel Honzek, and the additions of Connor Levis (Kamloops Blazers) and Tyson Zimmer (Lethbridge Hurricanes) just ahead of the Jan. 10 trade deadline

The Silvertips and the Bowling Green State University Falcons put out statements last Wednesday announcing that Everett coach Dennis Williams would be heading up the Falcons’ coaching staff come the end of these WHL playoffs. He is in his seventh season with Everett and took on GM duties with the Silvertips ahead of the 2021-22 season.

Williams is a Bowling Green alum, having played there at the same time as former Vancouver Canuck Kevin Bieksa.

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reference: theprovince.com

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