SPOKANE — You thought the Vancouver Giants were going to come out like gangbusters Wednesday night, but they proceeded with maybe their most lacklustre first period of the season.You thought they were dead in the water when they were down 2-0 to the Spokane Chiefs going into the third period here at the Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena, but they scored three goals out of seemingly nowhere to take the lead. You thought they were destined to win, but they gave up a goal in the third period, forcing overtime.You thought you had it figured out. But Dawson Holt, who has been so good for Vancouver in these playoffs, snapped one in off at the post at 7:07 of the extra session, giving the Giants a 4-3 win and a 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven WHL Western Conference final.
Vancouver forward Dawson Holt (19) scores the game-winning goal in overtime of a WHL playoff game, Wed., April 24, 2019, in the Spokane Arena.
Colin Mulvany /
Game 5 is Friday at the Langley Events Centre.The Giants had lost 3-2 in overtime in Game 3 on Tuesday. They seemed destined for a big rally on Wednesday. Instead, they had trouble stringing passes together in the first period. Their puck support was poor. The looked slow for one of the first times this season.But they somehow managed to recapture their game before a disappointed crowd of 4,208.It was a weirder game than Game 2, when Vancouver tallied four times in the third period to win 4-2. They played better for longer periods that night.Jadon Joseph, Bowen Byram and Brayden Watts scored in a five minute, 38-second span in the third period to put Vancouver up 3-2.Riley Woods tied it at 3-3 with a goal at 16:25 of the third period.Spokane got first and second-period goals from Adam Beckman to carry a 2-0 margin into the third. Both times he was permitted to skate out of low-risk areas and into the slot.
Vancouver Giants forward Jadon Joseph (23) scores the first of three Giant goals against Spokane Chiefs goalie Bailey Brkin (31) in the third period.
Colin Mulvany /
Home Ice AdvantageCounting the 12 completed series this season, there have 44 series that have gone at least five games in the WHL dating back to the 2016 playoffs.The team with home-ice advantage has a 33-11 record in those series. That bodes well for Vancouver (48-15-3-2), who finished atop the Western Conference regular season standings, 14 points in front of the third-place Chiefs (40-21-2-5).This Spokane team is one of the lower seeds that has won a series of five or more games in the past four playoffs, though. Last round they won in five games against the Everett Silvertips (47-16-2-3), who had the second-best record in the West, two points behind Vancouver.Spokane was ninth in the league in terms of road record (16-14-2-2) this season. They won their first four road games in the playoffs, beating both the Portland Winterhawks and the Silvertips in their two visits. (The Silvertips and Chiefs had a 2-3-2 format, rather than the traditional 2-2-1-1-1, so Spokane ended up with the extra home game despite being the lower seed.)
Spokane Chiefs forward Ethan McIndoe takes a shot against Vancouver Giants netminder David Tendeck during the second period of Game 4 in Spokane on Wednesday. ORG XMIT: SR1904242050599485 [PNG Merlin Archive]
Colin Mulvany/ The Spokesman-Review /
Injury WoesSpokane defenceman Filip Kral, who went to the dressing room midway through the first period Tuesday night after a heavy hit from Vancouver winger Justin Sourdif and eventually returned to the game later in the second period, didn’t dress for Spokane Wednesday.No word out of Spokane on what’s ailing him, which is standard operating policy in the playoffs.Kral, 19, was a fifth-round pick of the Toronto Maple Leafs in last year’s NHL Draft and played in the past two world junior tournaments for the Czech Republic, so it’s a substantial loss for Spokane.The Chiefs were already without over-age forward Luc Smith, who left Game 1 in the early stages with what looked like an ankle or knee injury.Kral had 10 goals and 36 points in 47 regular season games this season.Egor Arbuzov, 18, who had dressed for just two playoff games this season before Wednesday night, got the call in Kral’s place.Vancouver missed Sourdif, a 23-goal scorer in the regular season, with an upper body injury of some sort for five games in the opening-round series against the Seattle Thunderbirds and they’ve been without energy forward Aidan Barfoot since he suffered what appeared to be a concussion in Game 4 against Seattle.They’ve had a full complement of players more often than their playoff opponents to date. Seattle was without defencemen Cade McNelly and Jake Lee and forward Sean Richards for a combined six games due to three separate suspensions.The Victoria Royals didn’t have forwards Kaid Oliver and Tanner Sidaway for the four-game set with Vancouver due to undisclosed injuries. Defenceman Ralph Jarratt missed one game with an injury, while defenceman Jake Kustra sat two and forward Kody McDonald sat all four with suspensions.
Spokane Chiefs forward Jaret Anderson-Dolan upends a Vancouver Giants player during the first period of Game 4 in Spokane on Wednesday night.
Larry Brunt/ Spokane Chiefs /
Line DancingWHL teams routinely give out sheets before regular season games that show the projected forward lines and defence pairings. They don’t do that for playoffs.In their line rushes in the warm-up on Wednesday, Vancouver had Sourdif skating with Evan Patrician and Yannik Valenti, even though he had finished Tuesday reunited with his regular season linemates Milos Roman and Brayden Watts. Lukas Svejkovsky was with Roman and Watts for warm-ups.Sure enough, Sourdif was with Roman and Watts on the second shift of the game. Svejkovsky skated some with Patrician and Valenti, but also saw spot duty throughout the lines.NEXT GAMEFriday | Game 5Spokane Chiefs vs. Vancouver GiantsGiants lead best-of-seven series 3-17:30 p.m., Langley Events Centre, Radio: Sportsnet 650 AM