Much like their season, Saturday night’s home finale for the Vancouver Giants began with promise.
But as has been the case for much of the season, the Giants struggled with consistency, dropping their Western Hockey League home finale at the Langley Events Centre 5-2 to the Kelowna Rockets.
The game was the back-end of a home-and-home series with the Rockets winning easily, 7-0, the night before in Kelowna.
Vancouver’s record fell to 20-45-3-3 with one game to play — they conclude the regular season on Sunday in Seattle — while the playoff-bound Rockets finished with a record of 45-22-5-0.
The Giants led 2-1 and were controlling play, up 12-3 on the shot clock but after tying the game on their fourth shot, the Rockets took over.
As has been the case throughout the season, opponents were able to capitalize on Vancouver mistakes with two of the Kelowna goals coming off odd-man rushes.
“We just made a couple of mistakes and it is a fine line between winning and losing,” said Giants coach Jason McKee.
The Giants opened the scoring on the power play as James Malm whipped a no-look backhand pass to Calvin Spencer for a one-timer past Michael Herringer. The goal was Spencer’s 16th of the year.
But while that goal was being announced, Carsen Twarynski sprung Kole Lind on a breakaway and the winger buried the puck past Ryan Kubic.
Vancouver made it three goals in less than a minute as Jordan Borstmayer won a puck battle behind the Kelowna goal, brought the puck out front and buried his seventh of the season.
The Rockets would make it 2-2 on just their fourth shot of the game with Nolan Foote blasting a one-timer on the power play and 2:18 later, Kelowna had the lead for good on a Leif Mattson tally.
After a five-goal first period, goals were hard to come by in the second until Devante Stephens picked the top corner on an odd-man rush in the final minutes and then 11 seconds later, Reid Gardner made it 5-2.
David Tendeck would replace Kubic in goal for the third period, stopping all seven shots he faced in the final 20 minutes.
Prior to puck drop on Saturday night, the Giants handed out their year-end awards with Ty Ronning, James Malm and Ryan Kubic each picking up a trio of honours.
The three players were the recipients of the team’s Three Stars Award, having accumulated the most selections over the course of the season.
Ronning also picked up the Most Valuable Player Award as well as the Gordie Howe Top Scorer Award.
Malm won both the Most Improved and Most Sportsmanlike awards.
Kubic won both the Player’s Choice Award (as selected by the fans) and the Unsung Hero (as chosen by his teammates).
Jack Flaman also picked up a pair of awards, winning both the Humanitarian Award and Inspirational Leadership Award.
Other award winners included: Darian Skeoch (top plus/minus), Dylan Plouffe (Scholastic), Tyler Popowich (rookie of the year), Matt Barberis (top defenceman) and Jeff Rayman (Iron Man Award for most games played).
Rayman and Calvin Spencer were also honoured as the Giants’ two graduating players.