The Vancouver Giants’ improbable playoff run came to an end on Sunday, May 15.
The Giants backed their way into the Western Hockey League post-season with just one win in their final dozen regular season games to claim the last playoff berth in the Western Conference – and by just a single point – but then proceeded to make history, becoming the first eighth seed to defeat a No. 1 seed since the WHL expanded to 16 teams in 2002.
But in round two, Vancouver could not replicate that first-round magic, falling in six games to the No. 2 seed Kamloops Blazers, a team 46 points superior to the Giants in the regular season standings. Kamloops won game six by a 6-0 score on Sunday at Langley Events Centre, to win the series four games to two.
Fraser Minten opened the scoring with a shorthanded breakaway goal 6:06 into game six and the Giants never seemed to recover as the Blazers scored two goals apiece in each of the three periods.
“Anytime you give up a short-handed goal, it is a dagger. I think we continued to play but I think we just ran out of gas,” said Vancouver coach Michael Dyck.
For one last time in 2021-2022, Michael Dyck shares his postgame thoughts. pic.twitter.com/ABqKDXMPBE— x - Vancouver Giants (@WHLGiants) May 16, 2022
Luke Toporowski made it 2-0 a few minutes later before Daylan Kuefler and Logan Stankoven added second period goals. Toporowski with his second and Caedan Bankier rounded out the scoring with third-period tallies. Dylan Garand made 24 saves to earn the shutout.
The win advances Kamloops to the Western Conference championship round against either Portland or Seattle.
“Deep, fast. We knew it was going to be a tough series. They were one of the top teams in the conference for a reason,” Dyck said about a Blazers squad which beat Vancouver 10 times in a dozen regular season games before the Giants gave them a battle in the second round.
Prior to the lopsided score in game six, total goals were just 15-14 in favour of Kamloops.
RECAP: The Cinderella run came to an end for the Giants on Sunday after a Game 6 loss to Kamloops. To Connor Horning, Adam Hall and Alex Cotton - We thank you for your positive contributions to the Vancouver Giants and @TheWHL.— x - Vancouver Giants (@WHLGiants) May 16, 2022
📸: @rjmedia_ca pic.twitter.com/hGlLP0HS0Z
Ahead of the playoffs, Vancouver was not expected to put up much of a fight, given how their regular season had unfolded.
“For the older guys, I am just glad they got to experience something like this. Nobody has really had any playoff experience,” Dyck said about the fact there has not been any playoff hockey for a few seasons now. “For the younger guys, this is gold: to learn how hard it is to win. You can talk about it, you can show videos from the NHL playoffs, but until you experience it, you really don’t know for sure.”
Sunday’s contest marked the final junior game for the Giants’ Alex Cotton, Adam Hall and Connor Horning, the team’s three over-age players.
“All three of them, they played so well for us down the stretch,” Dyck said. “All three guys left it all out there.”
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