After back-to-back shutout losses on home ice, the Vancouver Giants needed a reason to feel good about themselves again.
So were the visiting Victoria Royals, a familiar foe who they were playing for the ninth time this season, the remedy for their recent woes?
Turns out… kinda.
The Giants battled valiantly to tie the game courtesy of a clutch tally from their captain Tyler Benson in the final minute of regulation.
But midway through the three-on-three overtime period, the visitors found the net to earn a 4-3 victory in front of 3,367 fans Friday at the Langley Events Centre.
Giants head coach Jason McKee was happy with the effort, and the fact his squad earned an overtime point.
“That’s a veteran (Victoria) team and we hung in there,” McKee said. “It was a big point for us to get and unfortunately, we didn’t get the extra one but we did a lot of good things tonight. Our compete level, our battle level was there and a couple of bad bounces… sometimes that happens. I told the guys it’s going to even out throughout the year. We’re going to get our bounces and tonight we didn’t get a lot of good ones.”
McKee said Benson, an Edmonton Oilers 2016 second round draft pick, played like a true leader against the Royals.
“He affected the game in a lot of different ways and that’s what you need from your captain,” McKee said, of Benson. “I thought he was good tonight.”
For his part, Benson said the Giants stuck with it until the end.
“We played a good game, a strong game,” Benson said. “I thought we played well.”
This was a “step-up game for us,” Benson said.
“We needed that one,” he said. “I think we’ll have to carry that through. We have a big game Wednesday (at home against Calgary) so we’ll have a couple practices to get ready for that one.”
In a wide-open, entertaining OT period, Victoria’s Tanner Kaspick stole the puck at centre ice and then raced in alone, pulling Giants goaltender David Tendeck one way and then tucking the puck the other to lift the visitors to victory.
The Giants got on the board early, when Dawson Holt snapped a Giants’ goalless drought that spanned 132 minutes, nine seconds. In fact, it took 2:54 after the opening puck drop for Holt to snap home a rebound off a Alex Kannok Leipert point shot to make it 1-0 for the hosts.
The Royals answered back with a centering pass that bounced off Holt in front of the net and ricocheted past Vancouver goalie David Tendeck.
But Benson put his team ahead 2-1 on a subtle deflection off a feed from Matt Barberis that sent the puck sailing over the shoulder of Royals netminder Griffen Outhouse.
It appeared the Royals had tied the game a few minutes later but the goal was nullified by incidental contact with the goaltender.
In the second period, Giants defenceman Brennan Riddle was called for crosschecking, and the Royals made the home team pay by tying the score on a power play at the 7:25 mark with Tanner Kaspick’s snapshot from the faceoff circle finding its way between Tendeck’s wickets.
The visitors moved ahead 3-2 on yet another power play with captain Matthew Phillips’ centering feed bouncing off a Giants’ defenceman’s skate and past Tendeck. Just before the goal, Benson started a fight with Victoria’s Lane Zablocki for what Benson felt was a borderline hit on his linemate Davis Koch.
Subsequently, Benson was handed 17 minutes in penalties — a five-minute boarding major, two-minute instigator penalty, and a 10-minute misconduct.
“I didn’t think that was a good hit,” Benson said. “He kinda ran our guy pretty hard from behind there, I thought. I was kind of surprised he didn’t get a penalty on that or anything. I just thought, sticking up for my new linemate is a good thing.”
The game remained scoreless through much of the third period, but both teams put the heat on each other at different times.
Then, with Tendeck on the bench for the extra attacker, Benson guaranteed the Giants at least a point when his desperation wrist shot from the point bounced off a Victoria skate and into the net with 54 seconds to go.
The Giants fell to 25-16-5-3 with the OT loss while the Royals improved to 28-17-3-1 and are now two points up on the G-Men in the B.C. Division.
Next up for the Giants is a home game against the Calgary Hitmen on Wednesday, Jan. 31. Opening puck drop is 7 p.m.
Two days, later, on Friday, Feb. 2, the Giants host the Hitmen again starting at 7:30 p.m. at the LEC.
The Giants don’t have much time to rest, because they’re back on home ice the very next night, Saturday, Feb. 3, against the visiting Medicine Hat Tigers. That game gets underway at 7 p.m.