Another overtime loss eliminates Chiefs
Giants take decisive Game 7 with 1-0 win
VANCOUVER, British Columbia – The Battle of the Memorial Cup Champions did not disappoint.
It just came down to one goal.
The Vancouver Giants’ Garry Nunn scored 1:56 into the first overtime period of Game 7 to break a scoreless tie and give the Giants a 1-0 victory and eliminate the Spokane Chiefs from the Western Hockey League’s Western Conference semifinal series in front of 10,864 spectators at the Pacific Coliseum on Tuesday night.
Billed as the Battle of the Memorial Cup Champions heading into the conference semifinal, the series lived up to that billing. Game 7 was the third straight overtime game in the best-of-7 series.
Chiefs coach Hardy Sauter said his team has no reason to hang its head after taking the conference champions to seven games, including the last three going to overtime periods.
“I just feel bad for my guys,” Sauter said. “(I’m) very proud of them. I think when we were down 2-0 to Vancouver, all but 40 people on the planet counted us out, but to come back and go up 3-2 speaks well of their character.”
Spokane claimed the Memorial Cup, emblematic of major junior hockey supremacy, in 2008 and the Giants won the cup in 2007.
The goaltenders were splendid throughout the series and continued their stellar play in Game 7. Chiefs goaltender Dustin Tokarski faced 42 shots while Tyson Sexsmith stopped 29 shots in the Giants’ goal.
Giants coach Don Hay had nothing but praise for the Chiefs.
“Any time you want to take down the defending champs, you have to take it from them … and you need good goaltending to do that,” Hay said. “I thought both goaltenders were extremely good.”
Ultimately, it was a double deflection that did in the season for the Chiefs. Giants defenseman Nick Ross fired the puck on the Spokane goal. Chiefs forward Mitch Wahl got a stick on the puck and Nunn managed to deflect it over Tokarski’s shoulder as he went to his knees.
Sauter said Tokarski was solid throughout the series.
“He’s a competitor. He’s been a champ at numerous levels,” Sauter said. “In my mind he’ll be an outstanding goaltender in the future and we wish him well wherever that future takes him.”
The teams traded scoring opportunities the first period, with Vancouver holding a 12-9 advantage in shots on goal.
Vancouver outshot the Chiefs in the second period by a 14-10 margin. The Giants held a 39-27 shot advantage after regulation time.
Tokarski made several key saves to keep the Giants off the scoreboard throughout the game. He said his team was devastated to lose the series in a third overtime period.
“We had a group of guys here that are so full of character, it’s hard to believe it’s over. It’s hard to swallow,” Tokarski said. “Everyone inside that room is a winner. For guys with that quality, it’s hard to come up with less than a win.
“We tried hard. We just didn’t get it.”
Less than 3 minutes into the third, the Giants thought they had broken the scoreless deadlock. Off-ice officials reviewed video to see if the puck had crossed the goal line while Tokarski was being pushed into the goal by a scrum of players in his crease. The officials ruled it no goal and the game remained scoreless.
Spokane had won five of eight Game 7s heading into Tuesday’s series finale against the Giants, including a 4-1 road win over Tri-Cities in the Western Conference championship series last season.
Vancouver took a 2-0 lead in the series on home ice with scores of 3-1 and 4-1. Spokane turned the series around on home ice, winning the next two games, 5-2 and 1-0.
In Game 5 in Vancouver, Chiefs forward Blake Gal ended the second-longest game in WHL history with his first career playoff goal 6:05 into the fourth overtime, to give Spokane a 3-2 lead in the series. The Chiefs had never gone more than two overtimes in their history.
Vancouver evened the series in Game 6 with a 3-2 double-overtime win in Spokane, forcing the Game 7 in Vancouver.
It was the second straight season the Chiefs and Giants squared off in the Western Conference semifinal. Spokane defeated the Giants last season on its way to the WHL and Memorial Cup championship.
Vancouver will play the Kelowna Rockets in the best-of-7 Western Conference final, in Vancouver starting Saturday.
Tokarski earns award
Tokarski was named the CHL Goaltender of the Week for the week ending Sunday. With a record of 3-0-1-0, Tokarski posted a goals-against average of 1.27 and a save percentage of .956 in four games.
In Game 3 of the WHL Western Conference semifinals April 7, Tokarski made 16 saves in Spokane’s 5-2 win and was named third star of the game. The next night, he stopped all 41 shots he faced in the Chiefs’ 1-0 victory and was the first star. It was the most saves Tokarski recorded in regulation time this season.
Tokarski was named first star again Friday in the second-longest game in WHL playoff history. After 126 minutes, 5 seconds of hockey and 60 saves for Tokarski, Spokane won 3-2 in the fourth overtime.
Giants 1, Chiefs 0 (OT)
First Period—No scoring. Second Period—No scoring. Third Period—No scoring. Overtime—1, Vancouver, Nunn 3 (Pierro-Zabotel, Ross), 1:56.
Power-play Opp.—Spokane 0 of 3; Vancouver 0 of 1. Saves—Spokane, Tokarski 12-14-13-2—41. Vancouver, Sexsmith 9-10-8-2—29. A—10864.