Vancouver Giants coach Michael Dyck said during the week that his team couldn’t get caught up relying overly on returning standout goalie Jesper Vikman and Dyck’s players bought into that intently if Friday was any indication.
Vikman, who was making his first start with Vancouver since coming back from Vegas Golden Knights training camp, faced just three shots in the third period and a mere 16 on the game as the Giants up-ended the Victoria Royals 4-1 before an announced crowd of 2,817 at the Langley Events Centre.
Vancouver (1-1-0-1) and Victoria (0-3-0-0) are expected to be middle of the pack in the Western Conference this season. Vancouver gets right back to action tonight (6:05 p.m., Sportsnet 650), visiting the Seattle Thunderbirds (1-0-0-0), who are expected to duel with the Kamloops Blazers (0-1-0-0) for top spot in the 10-team loop.
“I really liked our third period,” Dyck said after Friday’s game. “That’s the way we have to play. I thought we were relentless on pucks. I thought we made good decisions with the puck. I liked our forecheck and when we didn’t have pressure we did a really good job of being above the puck. We just wore them down.
“It’s a step in the right direction.”
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Victoria’s Anthony Wilson rifled one past Vikman high glove side in the first period to make it 1-1. Slovak rookie Samuel Honzek bagged the eventual winner in the second period, deking Victoria netminder Campbell Arnold to the backhand before sliding it home. Ty Halaburda opened and closed the scoring for Vancouver. Kyren Gronick had the other tally. Arnold turned away 25 shots.
Vikman’s best save was coming across the crease to foil Tanner Scott on a 2-on-1 with the game scoreless in the first period.
Vancouver was still missing team captain and first-line forward Zack Ostapchuk, who’s at Ottawa Senators camp. He suffered an undisclosed injury there and is sidelined for at least another couple of weeks.
Victoria is without their top two returning scorers — centre Brayden Schuurman and defenceman Gannon Laroque — due to injury as well.
Seattle will raising their 2022 WHL Western Conference championship banner to the rafters tonight as part of their home opener in Kent, Wash.
They beat Vancouver 4-3 in a shootout in Vancouver’s home opener on Sept. 23. They were missing six players to NHL camps that evening and they’re expected to have five of them back tonight.
“We’re going to go in there and play like we have no pressure on us. We’re just going to play and if we play like we did in the third period we’ll give ourselves a chance,” Dyck said.