Home-ice advantage is back in favour of the Everett Silvertips.
The western conference’s top seed scored three times in the opening 20 minutes on their way to a 6-2 victory on Wednesday night at Langley Events Centre in Game 3 of the best-of-seven Western Hockey League quarter-final series, taking a 2-1 lead over the Vancouver Giants.
Ryan Hofer opened the scoring at the 9:26 mark and then scored off scramble with eight seconds remaining in the opening frame, with Niko Huuhtanen adding a Silvertips goal in between those two markers to effectively put the game out of reach.
Everett has outscored Vancouver 9-0 in the opening period of the series’ first three games and Vancouver has at no point played with the lead, the only time they have been ahead on the scoreboard was when they won game one 5-4 in overtime, lamented Vancouver coach Michael Dyck.
“That is killing us, our starts. Just some mistakes today; I don’t think it was that we got out played – they scored on their opportunities, we didn’t,” Dyck said.
“At the end of the day, I think that was the difference.”
Matthew Ng made it a 4-0 game 2:14 into the middle frame, and after Fabian Lysell got the home side on the board with a power-play marker, Ng quelled any momentum that goal may have generated with his second of the period just 15 seconds later.
Dyck admitted that goal was deflating.
“You certainly want to build off a goal like that and get some energy. That was a pretty important shift,” he said.
Adam Hall would cut the lead back to 5-2 with another power-play goal midway through the period but that would be it for the Giants offence as Silvertips goaltender Braden Holt came up with several huge stops among his 32 saves as Vancouver outshot Everett 34-24.
“He gave them the saves when they needed them,” Dyck said of the opposing goaltender.
Huuhtanen rounded out the scoring with his second of the game, a power-play goal with under five minutes remaining for Everett.
Despite the loss, Dyck said there were positives for his team to build on.
“I thought we played a physical game today and that’s the way it is going to have to be. We are going to have to take hits to make plays. We certainly want to be physical and make them earn their opportunities,” he said.
He also liked their special teams as the Giants have scored six of their 10 goals in the series with the man advantage.
And while winning the special teams battle is important for success, Dyck know a major key for his team to get back in the series is improved play in the slot at both ends of the ice.
“We didn’t do a very good job in front of Jesper (Vikman). They had some quality opportunities and rebounds, and we weren’t there to help him out with those opportunities defensively,” Dyck said. “And offensively, just continue to get to the net, (get) more traffic.”
The teams had an off day before they hit the ice at Langley Events Centre tonight (Friday, April 29) at 7:30 p.m. for Game 4.
Game 5 is scheduled for Saturday, April 30 in Everett.
“At this point here, it is short memories. Game’s over, we will re-set and go back to work, and focus on our keys for success,” Dyck said.
The latter half of the third period saw Vancouver receive a pair of major penalties and two game misconducts as well as four players (two from each) getting 10-minute misconducts.
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