Giants return home from Saskatchewan

WHL team finishes six-game road trip, longest of the season

Vancouver Giants prospect Tyler Popowich of Surrey will play in the Western Canada U16 Challenge Cup Oct. 28 to Nov. 1 in Calgary.

After winning twice on home ice to start the season, the Vancouver Giants won one of six games on a grueling road trip through Saskatchewan and Manitoba, and now sit in third place in the B.C. Division with a 3-3-2  (win-loss-overtime loss) record.

The Giants began their 13-day trip, the longest of the season, with a 5-4 shootout loss on Friday, Oct. 2 to the Prince Albert Raiders. Vancouver led 2-0 after one period, and 3-2 after two, but needed a goal from Alec Baer with 35 seconds remaining in regulation time to tie the game 4-4.

After five minutes of scoreless overtime, the Raiders scored the lone goal in the three-player shootout.

Dakota Odgers, Jackson Houck and Jesse Roach were the other Giants goal scorers. Payton Lee was the netminder, making 32 saves on 36 shots.

Their next game on a Sunday afternoon (Oct. 4) in Saskatoon was a homecoming for head coach Lorne Molleken, who spent 13 of the past 22 seasons behind the bench of the Saskatoon Blades, including a nine-year stretch from 2004-13.

Two Giants who call Surrey home contributed to the 5-4 win. Defenceman Matt Barberis, 17, scored his first WHL goal in the second period which gave Vancouver a 2-0 lead.

The Blades called the tie the game, pulling even with a powerplay goal with just 21 seconds left in regulation.

Jakub Stukel of Surrey netted the winner for the Giants 1:50 into overtime. Carter Popoff, Odgers and Ty Ronning also scored for Vancouver.

Cody Porter was in goal for the Giants, making 39 saves on 43 shots.

The Brandon Wheat Kings handed the Giants their first regulation-time loss by an 8-3 score Tuesday night in the Manitoba city.

Popoff netted a pair of goals late in the first period to tie the game 2-2. Clayton Kirichenko taller on the powerplay midway through the second to knot the score 3-3. The Wheat Kings reigned a 5-3 lead after 40 minutes, and scored three unanswered goals in the third.

The Giants had Ryan Kubic in goal, and he stopped 35 of 43 shots.

Twenty-four hours later, the Giants were back in Saskatchewan to face-off against the Moose Jaw Warriors. After taking a 5-3 lead into the third period, Vancouver surrendered five third-period goals and fell 8-5.

Radovan Bondra, Houck, Barberis, Taylor Crunk and Kirichenko scored for the Giants. Lee was back in goal, facing 36 shots, including 22 in the final period.

The Giants took the Regina Pats to overtime before falling 6-5 Friday night. Ronning notched a hat trick for Vancouver, Ty Comrie added one, and Odgers scored a shorthanded goal in the third period which put Vancouver up 5-3 with 15 minutes to play.

The Pats tied the game with 67 seconds remaining, and got the winning goal with 49 seconds left in overtime.

A powerplay goal from Crunk was the only offense for the Giants in a 4-1 loss to the Swift Current Broncos Saturday.

The Giants will be at home in the Pacific Coliseum twice next weekend, hosting the 3-2-1 Tri-City Americans at 7:30 pm Friday night and the 5-2-0 Red Deer Rebels at 7 p.m. Saturday.

The Americans will have Cloverdale native Parker Wotherspoon in the lineup. The defenceman, a fourth-round selection by the New York Islanders in last summer’s National Hockey League Entry Draft, has two goals and five points in six games played.

* Tyler Popowich of Surrey is one of four Giants prospects set to play in the Western Canada U16 Challenge Cup Oct. 28 to Nov. 1 in Calgary.

Popowich, a forward, will play for Team BC at the four-team tournament. Kaedan Taphorn, a forward, and defensemen Kaleb Bulych and Alex Kannok-Leipert will play for Team Saskatchewan.

“We’re proud of all four of these young players,” said Giants’ director of player personnel Jason Ripplinger.

“They’ll all gain some great experience playing at the U16 Challenge Cup, and we’re excited about their future within our organization.”

Popowich was selected third overall in last spring’s WHL Bantam Draft after he tallied 25 goals and 32 assists with the Okanagan Hockey Academy’s Bantam Prep team.