Giants need history to repeat itself
Vancouver hopes to emulate 2009 recovery against Chiefs after Spokane takes 3-2 series lead
By Steve Ewen, The Province
April 1, 2012
Vancouver Giants captain Brendan Gallagher gets a knee in the back from Spokane's Corbin Baldwin in Game 2 of their Western Conference quarterfinal.
Photograph by: Arlen Redekop, PNG Files , The Province
Spokane Chiefs captain Darren Kramer won't be playing tonight against the Vancouver Giants, thanks to the WHL head office.
The powers that be in the league gave the Spokane tough guy a one game suspension for leaving the penalty box early to join a fracas at the final whistle in Game 5 Friday in Vancouver.
Kramer was assessed a roughing minor at 18: 02, but was on the ice for a scuffle just as the game ended. He's been one of the more productive players for the Chiefs in this series, with two goals, four points, a plus-two and 10 penalty minutes in five games. - Ewen
The Vancouver Giants are in harm's way. But at least they know of an escape route.
The Giants dropped a 5-1 decision Friday to the Spokane Chiefs at the Pacific Coliseum and now trail their best-of-seven WHL Western Conference quarterfinal 3-2.
Game 6 is tonight at Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena, and Game 7, if necessary, goes Wednesday at the Coliseum.
It was the third-straight loss to the Chiefs after the Giants won the opening two games in Vancouver. And it's exactly where the Giants were against the Chiefs in the second round in 2009, when they rallied from a Friday Game 5 loss at home with a Sunday Game 6 win in Spokane and then a Tuesday Game 7 victory back at the Coliseum.
The Giants have two players remaining from that series, right winger Brendan Gallagher and defenceman Neil Manning. Spokane can counter with forwards Blake Gal and Steve Kuhn and defencemen Tanner Mort and Corbin Baldwin.
"We're definitely going to talk about that experience," said Gallagher, the Montreal Canadiens prospect who is the Giants captain.
"Guys like myself and Neil have to let the group know that this is possible. It's something we can achieve. It's most of all a mental thing.
"Right now, we have to believe in our group that we can win a hockey game and then we come back here for Game 7, where anything can happen."
Manning maintains that the 2009 team may have been in an even more precarious state, since they lost Game 5 3-2 in quadruple overtime. They won Game 6 3-2 in double overtime and then Game 7 1-0 in single overtime.
"A little over a month ago we went to their barn right after we played Tri-City and had a good road win," said Manning, pointing to a 2-1 win on Feb. 15.
"We've beat them the first two games here. We've scored on this goalie. We know we can score on him. We just have to look at things we've done in the past that have been successful."
This goalie, Eric Williams, has been a major reason for the turnaround for the Chiefs, who gave up 14 goals in the first two games with Mac Engel getting the starts in the cage.
Vancouver, which was hamstrung by slow starts in Spokane, blasted out of the gate Friday, but Williams robbed Gallagher and then Tyler Vanscourt in the first minute. Spokane settled in, got the first goal and Williams finished with 23 stops. He has turned away 70 of 75 shots (.933 save percentage) in the three Spokane victories.
Williams, a Langley native, has been one of the three stars in each game, and he was also second star in his only regular season meeting against the Giants this year, a 4-3 Prince Albert Raiders victory on Nov. 25 in Prince Albert. He made 30 saves that night. He came to Spokane in a December trade and he and Engel split duties down the stretch.
"He's been good, but I think our D has also been better than they were in the first two games, too," said Spokane coach Don Nachbaur.
"I don't think we competed nearly hard enough to win a game here."
The Chiefs also lost their best player, defenceman Brenden Kichton (broken jaw) in Game 1, but their team play the past three games has been superb. Their puck support offensively has been textbook.
Vancouver was more dangerous offensively Friday than they had been in Spokane, which is something they can use as inspiration.
"I thought we changed a lot of things [Friday] and we got a lot more scoring opportunities," said Giants coach Don Hay. "When we got opportunities, we have to be able to finish."
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