A late power-play goal from Brayden Watts helped the Vancouver Giants head into the holiday break on a winning note.
With overtime looming, Watts was able to get a hold of a loose puck and direct it up and over Prince George’s Taylor Gauthier to give the Giants a 2-1 win over the visiting Cougars Sunday afternoon at Langley Events Centre.
Coming off back-to-back losses on Friday and Saturday, the victory made sure the Giants have not lost three straight games this entire Western Hockey League season.
The victory also improved Vancouver to 22-8-2-0 and pads their lead to a dozen points atop the B.C. division.
Vancouver had lost 4-1 to the Everett Silvertips at Langley Events Centre on Friday night against the top team in the Western Conference (the Giants are second), and then fell 4-2 the next night in Victoria to the Royals.
It also meant travelling all day from Victoria and then playing at 4 p.m., their third game in less than 48 hours, while Prince George had been off since Friday and waiting in Langley.
“We approached it like a road game and when you have a greasy road game, it comes down to good goaltending, it comes down to specialty teams and it comes down to managing the puck and I thought we did a real good job,” said head coach Michael Dyck.
“The guys made a statement about their character tonight. They gritted it out. We could have used a lot of excuses to have a below average performance. They didn’t want to do it, they wanted to finish on a positive.”
Special teams and goaltending, the staples of any team hoping to make a long post-season run, were both on display Sunday.
“Your specialty teams have to come up big for you and they did,” Dyck added.
“Prince George plays a heavy game, so it was tough at times to create anything five-on-five so our power play had to come through for us.”
After Jackson Leppard opened the scoring for the Cougars 4:02 into the game, netminder David Tendeck shut the door the rest of the way. The goaltender finished with 30 saves. Seventeen of those came in the middle stanza, including four glorious saves on one sequence.
Buoyed by that flurry, Watts would bury a rebound a few minutes later on the power play to tie the game at one. The score stood that way until the final minute when Watts stuck again just after the first penalty of a two-man advantage had expired.
The Giants finished 2-for-5 on the power play while their penalty kill was a perfect 5-for-5.
The team now heads into the holiday break, off until Dec. 28, when they are in Red Deer to start a six-game road trip against the Central division.
Vancouver’s next home game in Langley is Jan. 12.