by Troy Landreville
The weather outside the Langley Events Centre was frightful on Friday night.
And very early on, so was the Calgary Hitmen’s goaltending and defence.
But the Hitmen recovered in a big way, erasing a 2-0 deficit to edge the Vancouver Giants 4-3 in overtime, in front of 3,368 very faithful fans inside the LEC.
Calgary ended it 1:09 into the extra frame when Matteo Gennaro whipped a beautiful shot over the shoulder of Giants goaltender Ryan Kubic for his second of the night.
With the win, the Hitmen improved to 19-23-7-2 while the Giants (17-30-2-3) took away a single point but are now winless in six.
Giants head coach Jason McKee said his team didn’t do enough to get the two points.
“We needed to get a win out of that game,” McKee said. “We don’t value the little things to win games. We talk about it every day but unless we generally start to value those things, we’re going to be in tough to win games. We put ourselves in the position to have the lead, and we change our game, we try to do too much individually, and it backfires. It’s counterproductive.”
McKee said playing simple and hard, like the Giants did in the first period, is how they win hockey games.
The Giants were missing the services of six regulars including captain Tyler Benson and top four defencemen Darian Skeoch and Matt Barberis.
Meanwhile, this was a Hitmen team that had already lost twice previously to the Giants this season, looked like they were going to be low hanging fruit.
But this wasn’t the case.
The Giants’ first goal had an odour to it. Just 2:27 after the opening puck drop, Owen Hardy shot the puck along the goal line and the puck somehow sifted through Hitmen goaltender Trevor Martin.
And then, as the goal was being announced, the G-Men struck again as the puck bounced off the referee behind the net. Vancouver’s Dawson Holt collected it and fed it in front to Johnny Wesley who backhanded the puck past Martin.
Wesley’s goal came 24 seconds after Hardy opened the scoring.
It took 10:21 of action for the Hitmen to record their first shot on goal and the Rivermen owned the opening period, outshooting the visitors 17-5.
“I liked our first period — it was great,” McKee said. “We had energy, we were aggressive, we got pucks deep, we turned pucks over, we used our defencemen, our defencemen got pucks through to the net… we won races, we were hard on our stick and we were rewarded for it. For whatever reason, we had too many guys who pulled away from that.”
After the Hitmen’s Gennaro got his team onto the board at the 5:29 mark of the second period, Ty Ronning restored the Giants’ two-goal lead when he whipped a bullet of a wrist shot over the shoulder of Martin, short side.
But this Hitmen team didn’t go away, and a cheeky backhand from Tristen Nielsen fooled Kubic and narrowed the visitors’ deficit to a goal again.
The Hitmen equalized 54 seconds into the third period. On a Calgary power play, a beauty of a backhand pass found its way onto the stick Jakob Stukel of who had the open net to shoot into.
The ice tilted against the Giants in the third period.
The Hitmen had them hemmed in their own end including in a frantic final minute of regulation, and Kubic had to be sharp to keep the game tied.
Next up for the Giants: a trip to Everett, Wash., Saturday night to play the Silvertips.