Starting goalie Jesper Vikman backstops win in Game 1 in first appearance since March 4, but sits out Game 2 loss. GM Barclay Parneta pledges that Vikman will play again in the series.

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Injury concerns overshadow the split the Vancouver Giants managed to get out of their first two road playoff games with the Everett Silvertips.

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The No. 8 seeded Giants beat the No. 1 Silvertips 5-4 in overtime Friday in Everett to open their best-of-seven WHL Western Conference quarterfinal series. Vancouver was backstopped by the goaltending of Jesper Vikman, who was seeing his first game action since leaving a March 4 start in the first period with what looked to be a groin or a hamstring injury.

The Giants didn’t even dress Vikman for Game 2 Saturday in Everett, and the Silvertips bounced back with a 7-3 victory to knot the series at 1-1.

The Vancouver Giants are coming home from Everett with a split on the road.  Saturday night in Everett, Wash., the Giants fell 7-3 to the Everett Silvertips in Game 2 of their first-round series.
The Vancouver Giants are coming home from Everett with a split on the road. Saturday night in Everett, Wash., the Giants fell 7-3 to the Everett Silvertips in Game 2 of their first-round series. Photo by Kristin Ostrowski /jpg

Vancouver general manager Barclay Parneta said Saturday that the Giants were merely being cautious with Vikman and pledged that the Vegas Golden Knights prospect would see action again in the series.

Game 3 isn’t until Wednesday, when the series moves to the Langley Events Centre. Game 4 goes there Friday. There’s no break before Game 5, though, with it going Saturday back in Everett.

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Vancouver (24-39-5-0) finished 47 points behind Everett (45-13-5-5) in the regular season. Vikman, a Swede who turned 20 in March, was 17-15-2-0, with a 3.05 goals against average and a .903 save percentage, in this his first season with Vancouver and Parneta pegged him as the team’s most valuable player prior to him getting hurt.

Vikman will have plenty of company in Giants athletic trainer Mike Burnstein’s infirmary this week.

Vancouver winger Payton Mount took a heavy check from Everett forward Alex Swetlikoff at the end of the first period Saturday, needed help off the ice and did not return. Swetlikoff received a double minor for checking from behind.

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Vancouver dressed 10 forwards and eight defenseman for Saturday, subbing in underage call-up rearguard Colton Roberts for forward Colton Langkow, who suffered an undisclosed injury in Game 1 Friday. Roberts suffered an undisclosed injury Saturday and didn’t play after the first period as well.

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The Giants weren’t going with the usual complement of 12 forwards and six defensemen because they have a bevy of injured wingers. Cole Shepard (lower body), Jacob Boucher (lower body) and Kaden Kohle (undisclosed) were all already sidelined going into the series.

Shepard and Boucher both practiced last week at points, so it would seem that they’re close to returning. Neither skated with the club on Thursday in the final preparation for Friday’s opener however.

Both Mount and Shepard have been top-six forwards for Vancouver this season. Mount was sixth in team scoring, with 32 points, including 12 goals, in 59 games. Shepard had 20 points, including seven goals, in 28 games.

“With having a couple of days of between games, we’re hoping that works in our favour,” Giants associate coach Keith McCambridge said on Sportsnet 650 after Saturday’s game. “Burnie will have a chance to look at them back home and evaluate them.

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“We have a couple of bodies back home we hope will be able to inject some fresh legs.”

McCambridge admitted that sitting Vikman was a “last-minute decision,” on Saturday.

“We’ll see,” McCambridge said.

He did talk up the split as well. Everett had the WHL’s third-best home record in the regular season, with their 26-4-1-3 mark. Vancouver did win there, nabbing a 6-5 triumph on Dec. 4 as part of the team’s 2-2-0-0 regular season against one another.

“Playoffs are about turning the page,” McCambridge said Saturday. “Obviously yesterday was a really good game, but you can’t pat yourself on the back too much after a win like we had. The same goes for this evening. It’s a tough loss but it’s about turning the page.

“Our goal was to split. We seized home ice advantage. Three of the next four games are on our home ice. That is a success on our side here. There’s lots to be learned from tonight and there are things we took from last night. It’s about regrouping, turning the page and getting ready for Wednesday.”

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The Vancouver Giants are coming home from Everett with a split on the road.  Saturday night in Everett, Wash., the Giants fell 7-3 to the Everett Silvertips in Game 2 of their first-round series.
The Vancouver Giants are coming home from Everett with a split on the road. Saturday night in Everett, Wash., the Giants fell 7-3 to the Everett Silvertips in Game 2 of their first-round series. Photo by Kristin Ostrowski /jpg

Everett came into the series with injury issues as well. Winger Jackson Berezowski (undisclosed), who led Everett in goals (46) and was second in points (79) in the regular season, got hurt in their April 15 game against the Portland Winterhawks, didn’t dress for their April 16 league play finale against the Tri-City Americans, and you have missed the first two games of this set. No word on when he might be back.

Everett defenseman Olen Zellweger (upper body), who was the WHL’s top-scoring blue liner (78 points), did play both games against the Giants after sitting out the final two matchups of the regular season.

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