The Vancouver Giants just played four games in six nights, including three in a 48-hour span.
It was a chance for Giants’ netminder Trent Miner get back in the game after a personal tragedy.
Earlier this month, the 17-year-old Vancouver Giants goaltender lost both his grandfathers, less than 48 hours apart, back home in Manitoba.
Miner missed last weekend’s slate of games, rejoining the Giants earlier this week. And with the team playing four games in six nights, including another three in a 48-hour span, Miner was back in the crease for the last two of those contests, losing 2-1 in overtime on Saturday night to the Portland Winterhawks before making 28 saves on Sunday afternoon in a 3-1 win over the Kelowna Rockets.
Both games were at Langley Events Centre and Vancouver improved to 10-2-2-0 on the Western Hockey League season. Kelowna fell to 4-10-0-0.
While Miner was happy to be able to go back home and be with his family – albeit not under the best of circumstances – he was more pleased to get back in action and continue his stellar start.
“Once you get on the ice, everything is gone. It is just you and your brothers on the ice, you don’t have anything else to focus on,” Miner said about hockey being a great distraction from personal turmoil off the ice.
He was close to both grandfathers, and one lived nearby, the other was about 45 minutes away from Miner’s home in Brandon.
“If I needed a ride two minutes from my house to the rink, he would drive 45 minutes,” he said. “He was my backbone and I can’t thank him enough for everything he did.”
Through four games this season – where he has compiled a record of 3-0-1-0 – Miner leads all WHL goaltenders with a 1.24 goals against average and a .958 save percentage.
And goaltending has played a big key in the Giants hot start. Through the first four months of the season, Vancouver sits second in goals against at 2.03 and save percentage (.921) thanks to the dynamic duo of Miner and David Tendeck (7-2-1-0, 2.16 GAA, .911).
“It is like having two quarterbacks. It is a luxury,” said Vancouver head coach Michael Dyck. “The key is they get along really well. They are competitive, but it is a healthy relationship. When one guy is playing the other is very supportive.
“And I think the guy who is playing knows if he doesn’t play well, the other guy will be going in.”
Miner, who is in his NHL draft year (Tendeck was a sixth round by Arizona back in June), said the goaltenders are best friends, constantly going to lunch and playing video games together, and talking quite often.
“Me and Dave are as best friends as you are going to find,” Miner said.
In Sunday’s victory, Owen Hardy scored goals in the first and third period while Justin Sourdif tallied in the middle frame for the Giants. Kyle Topping, during a four-on-three power play in the third period had the lone Rocket marker as Kelowna saw their two-game winning streak come to an end. The Rockets entered the game with 13 goals in their past two games, but Miner was up to the task.
The goaltender was also quick to deflect credit to his teammates, especially in Saturday’s overtime defeat to Portland where they held the WHL’s top-ranked power play to no goals on five chances.
“It’s more the team than me. If you look at the chances they have had, they haven’t had any extraordinary chances. It has made my day easier,” Miner said.
Sunday’s win stopped a two-game losing streak for Vancouver, a first this season. Friday’s loss, a 5-3 setback in Portland, saw the Winterhawks score three times in the third period to erase a 3-2 deficit.
Dyck was happy his team got the win on Sunday, allowing them to finish the weekend .500, while also avoiding any more injuries. One positive has been seeing some of the team’s younger players step up into bigger roles with Dyck singling out the fourth line of Evan Patrician, Hunor Torzsok and Cyle McNabb.
“That is how you are going to develop some of these other guys. The Western Hockey League season is a grind. You are going to go through stretches like this,” Dyck said.
Having just completed seven games in 10 days in five cities, Vancouver will take a much-needed day off on Monday. They are back in action with a pair of games at Langley Events Centre on Saturday, Oct. 27 vs. Seattle and Sunday, Oct. 28 against Brandon as the Giants continue an eight-game homestand.