It wasn’t a masterpiece, but it was a victory.
The Vancouver Giants won for the first time in five games, knocking off the Calgary Hitmen 4-1 on Wednesday night at the Langley Events Centre in Western Hockey League action.
The victory improves Vancouver to 26-16-5-3 and their 60 points have them in third place in the B.C. Division.
The Hitmen fell to 15-29-5-1 and the team is well back of a playoff position.
“We were good enough to win the game tonight. I wouldn’t say we were great … but we did enough to win the game,” said Giants head coach Jason McKee.
“We talk about valuing the right play, valuing the simple play. And our group gets into trouble when we don’t do that (and) we try to do too much.
“When we value the simple things we tend to play much better. Tonight we kind of wavered back and forth on that
Vancouver had just a pair of overtime losses in their past four games as the team improved to 2-2-1-1 on their season-high eight-game homestand.
The team was blanked in both of their regulation losses, prompting some line juggling for Wednesday’s game.
And the moves paid off as Davis Koch scored his first in a Giants uniform, taking a pass from Dylan Plouffe and skating to the face-off circle and wiring a shot short-side on Hitmen goalie Nick Schneider just before the midway point of the first period.
“It took me a couple games but it was good to finally get it,” Koch said.
In his first five games since joining the team from Edmonton, Koch has alternated between centre and wing up and down the team’t top three lines.
On Wednesday, he found himself at centre, flanking Brayden Watts and Ty Ronning while James Malm was re-united with Tyler Benson while Dawson Holt was on the other wing to make up the team’s top two lines.
Benson did spend some time with Ronning and Koch as well and the trio finished a combined +6. Koch was +3.
“I think we needed a change, a little bit of a spark,” McKee said.
Tyler Popowich, who has spent time in the top six with Milos Roman still on the shelf, was centring the fourth line, and he scored what turned out to be the game-winner, banging home a rebound off an Aidan Barfoot rebound less than five minutes into the second period.
Ronning extended the lead to 3-0 less than six minutes later on a delayed penalty as the winger re-directed a pass from Benson for his first goal in four games.
Vancouver Canucks prospect Jakob Stukel one-timed a pass from Riley Stotts four minutes into the third, but that would be the only puck to elude David Tendeck, as the goaltender made 27 saves.
“Dave made some key saves at key times or else it could have been different,” McKee said.
After Calgary got on the board, the Giants did a good job of limiting the Hitmen scoring opportunities, holding them to three shots in the period until a late flurry bumped that up to seven shots in the period.
Ronning iced the game with an empty-netter, his 44th of the season, which puts him four back of tying Evander Kane’s team record 48 goals.
The coach was concerned with his team’s power play, especially considering they had three man-advantage opportunities in the first 11 minutes of the final period, but could not find a goal to put the game to bed.
For the game, the Giants finished 0-for-4.
“It just wasn’t sharp and our retrieval isn’t where we need it to be. They (Calgary) were winning races, they were harder on their sticks and they were simply shooting it down the ice. Our guys need to be harder in those areas,” the coach said.
“We are not winning face-offs to start (so) we are coming 200 feet (and) our decisions haven’t been real sharp.
“We have been getting some decent looks but pucks seem to be bouncing off our sticks.For whatever reason, it just doesn’t seem to be going right now but we have to get it turned around quickly here.”
The Giants are back in action when they host the same Hitmen squad on Friday at the LEC with a 7:30 p.m. puck drop. Vancouver wraps up their home stand the following night with a 7 p.m. game against the Medicine Hat Tigers.