Battle With Alberta
Tonight the Vancouver Giants begin 3 games in 4 nights vs. three tough Central Division teams, the Red Deer Rebels, Calgary Hitmen, and Edmonton Oil Kings. The Giants are coming off a weekend in which they picked up 5 of a possible 6 points defeating Everett and Seattle, while losing in a shootout to the Kelowna Rockets.
Wednesday January 25, the Giants take on the Red Deer Rebels. Currently one game below .500 with a record of 20-21-1-4, the Rebels sit in 5th place in the Central Division and 9th position in the Eastern Conference, 6 points out of a playoff spot. It has been an interesting year for the Rebels who have had to deal with their share of injuries, including losing their import goaltender Patrik Bartosak for the season with a shoulder injury. The Rebels started the season 14-4-0-1, but then lost 13 straight, and since then are 6-6-1-1. The player to watch for Red Deer is defenceman Matt Dumba who is riding a 3 game goal scoring streak. The 17 year old, who is arguably the best open ice hitter in the WHL, is projected to go in the first round of the upcoming NHL entry draft; he was ranked 7th overall by Central Scouting in the recent mid-term rankings.
On Friday January 27 the Giants will be in Calgary to take on the Hitmen. Calgary defeated the Giants 6-4 back on January 4 at the Pacific Coliseum. The Hitmen are one of the hottest teams in the WHL having won 10 of their last 11 games in which they have outscored their opponents 53-28. They are a team built on speed and currently find themselves in 4th place in the Central Division and 7th overall in the Eastern Conference with a record of 27-17-2-1. The Giant have always seemed to have their struggles playing at the Saddledome. Since entering the league in 2001, Vancouver has just 2 wins in 11 games in Calgary.
Vancouver will wrap up their 3 game road trip Saturday January 28 in Edmonton vs. the top team in the Central Division and the first place team in the Eastern Conference. The Oil Kings have a record of 32-11-1-4 and have won 20 of their last 25 games. Now in their 5th year of existence, Edmonton has the most potent offense in the entire league, boasting a league best 208 goals for. Leading the way is the reigning WHL/CHL Player of the Week Michael St. Croix, who is 3rd in the league in scoring with 31 goals, 46 assists, and 77 points. 20 year old Tyler Maxwell has been a huge addition since coming over in a trade from Everett. He has 18 goals, 20 assists, 38 points, and is a +23 in 24 games with Edmonton. He is currently in the midst of a 6 game goal scoring streak in which he has 8 goals and 5 assists. The Giants though have had all kinds of succes vs. the Oil Kings; all-time Vancouver is 7-1-0-0 and defeated Edmonton 4-1 back on November 9.