Photo: Lucas Chudleigh
For the 11th time in Western Hockey League history and the first time since 2014, a Game 7 will be played in the WHL Championship Series.
Goals from captain Jared Dmytriw and forward Davis Koch broke open a tie in the third period Sunday at the Art Hauser Centre in Prince Albert, Sask., sending the Vancouver Giants to a 4-2 win against the Prince Albert Raiders in Game 6 of the 2019 Rogers WHL Championship Series.
“I’m proud of the way we played,” said Giants head coach Michael Dyck. “Coming into a building that’s not easy to play in, I think we fed off the energy. I like the way we responded after giving up a goal in the first minute.”
Sunday’s Game 6 featured the best of both teams in each of the first two periods with offence featuring in the first before the defensive play of both teams took over in the second.
Parker Kelly, a prospect of the Ottawa Senators, opened the scoring for the Raiders just 53 seconds in. As he charged hard to the net for a chance, Kelly’s initial shot attempt was denied. However, the rebound came right back to the Raider forward who immediately put it on net once more, catching the Vancouver goaltender off guard for the opening goal.
“Outside of a couple things, our defensive zone could’ve been better,” said Raiders head coach Marc Habscheid. “I thought we missed a couple assignments. They play heavy but we can be better in our own end.”
The Giants would have a response at the 6:58 mark into the first period from the stick of overage forward Davis Koch. Taking a pass down low from teammate Justin Sourdif, Koch eluded the Raider defence and put the puck on his backhand before roofing it into the top corner of the net.
Vancouver would secure their first lead of the game eight minutes later via forward Owen Hardy. As the Raiders entered the zone, they lost control of the puck, with Dawson Holt pouncing on it and carrying it in the opposite direction. After sending the puck up to his captain, Dmytriw connected on a perfect pass with Hardy, who was also streaking up into the offensive zone. From there, Hardy sized up his shot and connected on his fifth goal of the 2019 WHL Playoffs.
Continuing the trend of goals scored off the backhand, Kelly scored his second of the period in the final minute to tie up the game. Battling for the puck in the slot, Aliaksei Protas, a prospect eligible for the 2019 NHL Draft, gained control of the puck and fed it down low to Kelly. Wide open with only the goaltender to beat, Kelly moved the puck to his right quickly and tied up the game.
The goaltenders owned the second period as the duo of David Tendeck, a prospect of the Arizona Coyotes, and Ian Scott, a prospect of the Toronto Maple Leafs, combined for 21 saves on 21 shots. As part of a 36-save performance that earned his team the win, Tendeck earned high praise from his coach.
“He’s another guy that’s got a level of composure that gives everybody else confidence,” Dyck said. “We’ve had that all year long. We’re pretty fortunate to have two very good goaltenders.”
Those timely saves would pay off for the Giants early into the third period. Winning a battle along the boards in the offensive zone, Lukas Svejkovsky sent a shot in on net that was turned aside by Scott. However, the rebound came right out to Dmytriw, who got a stick on the puck quick to send it back in on Scott, beating the goaltender for the deciding goal in the contest.
“It’s unbelievable to get the lead at that point in the game,” Dmytriw said. “It was huge and then we locked it down. I thought the team played well down the stretch.”
Davis Koch would earn his second goal of the night by firing the puck into the empty net late in regulation.
Tendeck put forth a strong performance for the third consecutive game. His 36 stops were his second-highest single-game total in the 2019 WHL Playoffs.
Dmytriw added his team never wavered from their approach throughout the game, regardless of the score.
“It’s been the identity of our group this whole year is to bounce back,” Dmytriw said. “We knew coming into tonight, whether they got they got the first one or we got the first one we weren’t going to change our game.”
Sunday’s victory now sets up Game 7 in the WHL Championship, the first since the Edmonton Oil Kings and Portland Winterhawks did so in 2014. Raiders captain Brayden Pachal expressed his desire for his team to regain their form while also playing in the spotlight of such an important matchup.
“It’s something you dream of your whole life,” Pachal said. “It’s time for us to take control of that opportunity.”
Both Bowen Byram and Brett Leason remain tied for the scoring lead in the 2019 WHL Playoffs with 25 points each. Dante Hannoun remains the leader in goals with 13 while Byram leads all players with 17 assists.