Sexsmith playing rock solid in net
Giants looking to their goaltender to help them through tough stretch
By Steve Ewen, The ProvinceFebruary 20, 2009
Tyson Sexsmith makes a glove save against the Chilliwack Bruins.Photograph by: Bob Frid, Freemotion Photography, The ProvinceThe Vancouver Giants start their toughest stretch of the WHL regular season tonight, and the saving grace is the guy that makes the saves appears locked in.
Tyson Sexsmith, Vancouver's No. 1 netminder, is in one of those grooves where he can't play enough. The Giants, oddly enough, are in one of those spans where you could easily argue they're playing too much -- they have eight games in the next 10 days, starting with tonight's visit from the Kelowna Rockets to the Pacific Coliseum (7:30 p.m., Shaw TV/AM 650).
"Focus is exactly what it is," Sexsmith, 19, said of his current run. "You can be focused every single night and you know what you're doing and you're going to be all right. I feel like the same goalie. I don't think my style has changed. It's just little minor things that I've focused on."
It's worked. There's a month until playoffs, and the textbook-solid Sexsmith has been the Giants' best player the past four or five games. He was first star in a 28-save, 4-0 shutout on the road against the Spokane Chiefs on Feb. 6. He was second star after his 24-save performance in a 3-2 overtime loss to the Rockets on the road last Friday.
It just feels like he's intensely intent on finishing his WHL career on a high. He admits to feeling "secure" about his future, saying that the San Jose Sharks, the team that picked him in the third round of the 2007 entry draft, have assured him that he'll play somewhere in the pro ranks next season rather than return to the WHL as an overage.
He established the WHL mark for career regular-season shutouts when he pitched his 22nd earlier this season, and he openly wants to ratchet up the record and make it difficult for someone else to reach. He'd like to get to 29 to match his jersey number. He's at 25 shutouts after the Spokane triumph.
"He's really solid right now," Giants coach Don Hay said of Sexsmith, who is 33-5-1-2, with a 2.09 goals against and a .904 save percentage this season. "His work ethic is really high. He looks like he's really focused, but it looks like he's really enjoying himself.
"I look to different leaders in our group and what they're known for, and I think he wants be in that category ... not only a really good goaltender for us, but also one of our great leaders."
This overloaded stint is the result of several things, including teams figuring it's easier to get bigger crowds after Christmas. Giants owner Ron Toigo has said that the WHL plays too many games, and would like to see a two-game cut to 70 games per team per season. He hasn't received much support for that so far.
The Giants, meanwhile, insist that they're looking at it as a challenge. Hay has already said that he likely won't have a practice next week, opting instead to give them Monday and Thursday off completely.
"I've never seen anything like this is my career," said Craig Schira, a 20-year-old defenceman. "We're trying to do all the right things ... eat right, get enough rest. It's going to be quite the stretch."
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THE NEXT EIGHT GAMES
Tonight host Kelowna, 7:30 p.m.
Saturday at Kamloops, 7p.m.
Sunday at Seattle, 5:05 p.m.
Tuesday host Spokane, 7 p.m.
Wednesday at Everett, 7:05 p.m.
Feb. 27 host Chilliwack, 7:30 p.m.
Feb. 28 at Everett, 7:05 p.m.
March 1 at Chilliwack, 8 p.m.
MORE ON THE WEB
Want the latest on the Giants as they embark upon the toughest -- and ultimately, most telling -- stretch of this memorable season? Then check out The Dub Hub at theprovince.com/blogs, where Steve Ewen reveals the lineup changes for tonight's big Giants-Rockets game at the Coliseum.
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