Thanks to a gritty effort on the road Saturday night, the Vancouver Giants didn’t come away from their home-and-home series with the Kamloops Blazers empty handed.
The Giants were coming off a heartbreaking, 5-4 loss to the Blazers Friday night at the Langley Events Centre, where the Vancouver surrendered a power play goal with 16.4 seconds to go that broke a 4-4 tie.
On Saturday, it was the Giants coming away with a 5-4 win, courtesy of a two-goal performance from Ty Ronning and a three-point night (1g, 2a) from captain Tyler Benson.
Rookie goaltender Todd Scott put together a first star performance, making 43 saves.
The Giants struck three times in the first period and twice in the second frame, earning their fourth road victory of the season while vaulting themselves back into the top eight of the Western Conference in the process.
At the other end of the ice, Jermaine Loewen paced the Kamloops attack with two goals giving him four goals for the weekend.
A night removed from his first WHL victory in goal, Kamloops rookie Max Palaga surrendered a goal against on his first shot faced. It came off the stick of rookie Aidan Barfoot at the 3:06 mark. For Barfoot it was his first ever WHL goal and came courtesy of a terrific pass by fellow rookie Tyler Ho. Palaga would end up being chased from the Kamloops net early in the second period after allowing four goals on 10 shots.
The Giants further extended their lead at 11:27 when Kamloops native Brendan Semchuk knocked home his fifth of the season off a left-wing feed from Benson.
Benson then scored a goal himself at the 16:53 mark off a blistering shot from the top of the left circle that went under the bar and in for his second of the season.
Despite the 3-0 lead, the Giants were outshot 12-7 in the first 20.
Garrett Pilon got Kamloops on the board just a minute and 13 seconds into the second period when he snuck home his seventh of the season past the right pad of Scott from beside the Giants goal.
Ronning quickly answered though, with his team -eading 14th of the season. The goal came shorthanded at the 3:47 mark and was set up beautifully by Tyler Benson whose initial shorthanded attempt was denied by Max Palaga.
Down 4-1, the Blazers removed Palaga from the net in favor of 2002-born call-up Dylan Garand who stopped 12 of the 13 remaining shots fired his way.
The only puck to get past Garand came with seven seconds remaining in the second period, and came 19 seconds after the Blazers had made the game 4-2.
Luc Smith netted his third of the season at 19:34 for Kamloops, but Ronning answered with his second of the period for Vancouver who took a 5-2 lead into the second intermission. Shots through two periods 30-19 for Kamloops who ended up outshooting the Giants 47-23 overall.
In the third period Kamloops fired 17 shots on the Vancouver goal, and were rewarded twice: Both via Jermaine Loewen. His first came at 3:40 off a two-on-one rush and then he made the game 5-4 with a shot from the high slot at 10:52, but that’s as close as the Blazers would ultimately come.
Todd Scott kept the door shut from then on and the Giants mobbed him when the final horn sounded.
Neither team capitalized on the power play as the Giants went 0-2 and the Blazers went 0-3, but the Giants did register their second shorthanded goal of the season courtesy of Ronning.
With the victory, the Giants (6-8-1-2) move back into third place in the B.C. Division, one point ahead of the Prince George Cougars.
Up next for the Giants: A string of three games in three nights beginning Friday night in Kelowna against the Rockets.
NOTABLES: Barfoot became the fourth Giants rookie this season to score his first WHL goal (The others being: Tyler Ho, Cyle McNabb and Bowen Byram). With two goals on Saturday, Ronning has now registered nine goals and six assists for 15 points in his last seven games altogether. Scott’s 43 saves were a new single game high for him.