VANCOUVER, British Columbia – With mirroring records coupled with a pair of down-to-the-wire regular-season meetings, the first-round playoff match up between the Spokane Chiefs and the Vancouver Giants was almost destined to be a low-scoring dog fight.
Game 1 turned out to be the exactly opposite. At least on the low-scoring end.
The Giants defeated the Chiefs 7-5 in a frantic-paced contest at the Pacific Coliseum on Friday night.
After both squads came out of the gate stagnant, Vancouver was first to strike. The Giants’ Austin Fyten scored off a Brendan Ghallagher miss with 2.6 seconds left the period. Spokane, on the other hand, struggled on offense, amassing only six shots on goal in the first despite having three power-play opportunities.
Home-ice advantage became apparent early in the second as the Giants put up back-to-back goals in the first 31/2 minutes of the period. Vancouver’s Cain Franson scored on a breakaway goal, while teammate Marek Tvrdon’s wraparound less than 2 minutes later put the Giants up 3-0.
Blake Gal’s (who also had two assists) wrist-shot goal at the 6:42 mark in the second finally put Spokane on the board. Steve Kuhn also scored in the second period for the Chiefs, but a pair of goals by Vancouver’s Jordan Martinook kept the Giants ahead 5-2 going into the third.
“We made far too many mistakes and most of the opportunities they got was a direct result of us having the puck and making errant plays,” Chiefs coach Don Nachbaur said. “They took full advantage of it.”
While Chiefs goalie Mac Engel struggled, he didn’t get much help from his defensemen who seemed complacent all game, repeatedly getting beat to loose pucks and failing to control Vancouver’s transition game.
Jason Fram’s power-play goal at the 6:32 mark of the third sparked a Spokane comeback. Dominik Uher scored a minute later for the Chiefs, on a short-handed goal that got Spokane within one. The Chiefs were close to evening the score on a few occasions, but Giants goalie Adam Morrison was able to fight off a barrage of shots during a Spokane power play midway through the third.
A wraparound at the 16:12 mark by Franson put Vancouver up 6-4.
Spokane’s Mike Aviani came back to score with 90 seconds to go, but that is as close as the Chiefs got. Franson completed a hat trick when he scored on an open net with 1.9 seconds on the clock.
“We had the opportunity to tie the game and we made a mistake with the puck, turned it over and it ended up in the net for a seventh goal,”
“Bottom line, that’s how we played all night - too many mistakes,” Nachbaur said.
Leading regular-season point getter Brenden Kichton also had a relatively ineffective night for the Chiefs, accruing only a single assist.
The Chiefs will have a chance to even the score against the Giants, as the two face off again Saturday night at 7 at Pacific Coliseum in Vancouver. Nachbaur hopes his team can rectify their errors in Game 1.
“We got to come with a different mentality tomorrow,” he said. “Simple as that.”