A victory calms those rattled nerves
Giants defenceman relieved streak continues upon his return from injury
By Ian WalkerDecember 29, 2008
Mike Berube isn't one to get nervous. His fingernails show no signs of displaced energy, and the Vancouver Giants veteran defenceman has no apparent facial ticks.
So there was a rare moment of angst for the usually calm and confident 20-year-old before the Giants' 4-3 victory over the Prince George Cougars Saturday.
Returning to the lineup for the first time in six weeks, his stress was not without merit. But it wasn't his conditioning that was a worry. Nor was his concern for his recently set arm. Rather, it was Vancouver's 14-1 record during his extended absence that played on his mind in the quiet minutes before stepping onto the Pacific Coliseum ice.
"The last thing you want is to come back and have the team lose, so I was thinking about that a bit," said Berube, who suffered the broken limb on Nov. 11 in Chilliwack. "The guys were on quite a roll there ... but it turned out alright."
The same can be said about the timing of Berube's return to the Giants. The Western Conference leaders are minus two of their biggest stars at the world junior championships, with captain Jonathon Blum a defenceman with Team USA and winger Evander Kane a rookie with Team Canada. Vancouver is also without rookie forward Brendan Gallagher, who is a member of Team Pacific at the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge in Port Alberni.
While hard pressed to match Blum's offensive prowess, Berube's calming presence and leadership was readily apparent against the Cougars, as the Giants trailed 3-2 heading into the third period. The Giants needed two late goals by James Wright and Craig Cunningham to run their win streak to a WHL-best nine games.
"It was good to have Mike back," said Hay, following Sunday's mid-afternoon practice at the Giants' training facility in Ladner. "He brought some excitement to the group and some experience on the back end that was lacking with him and Jon not available. We're going to need that over the next while here."
Saturday's game was the first of a five-game holiday road stand for Vancouver, who will be looking to keep their undefeated home record intact tonight against the Kelowna Rockets, who were 4-3 winners over the Kamloops Blazers on Saturday. Vancouver holds a 19-point lead over their B.C. Division rival, who will be without leading scorer Jamie Benn as well as fellow forwards Tyler Myers and Stepan Novotny, all of whom are at the world juniors. Benn and Myers are members of Team Canada, while Novotny is playing for the Czech Republic.
Tonight's game is the second of three in four nights for Vancouver, who host the Moose Jaw Warriors on Tuesday. A tedious schedule, no doubt. But a great one to get rid of all those jitters, said Berube.
"It's just really good to be back playing and contributing," he said. "It was tough being out. I've waited a long time for this. Sure, it's tough on the body, but it forces you to be in that mindset of competing hard every night."
Instead of just thinking about it.
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