November 10, 2008 - Western Hockey League (WHL) - Vancouver Giants
VANCOUVER BC - The Vancouver Giants are blazing along the WHL trail this season, and in the process personal milestones, big victories and records continue to fall.
The Giants put two more wins on the board this past week, both over the Prince George Cougars, and see their record climb to a CHL best 14-0-0-3. While the Windsor Spitfires may have more victories on the season, the Vancouver Giants continue to be just one of two teams to be undefeated in regulation so far this season, (the Moncton Wildcats being the other). With 31 of a possible 34 possible points, the Giants have a .912 win percentage and have now set a team record by starting the season without a loss in regulation through 17 games. In the 2006-07 season, the Giants reeled off a 15-0-1-0 record before falling in Game 17 to the Red Deer Rebels 4-1. As a team, the Giants are now in uncharted territory for success to begin the season.
On Friday of last week, the Giants made their first visit to Prince George to take on the Cougars in back to back games. Tyson Sexsmith made 24 saves and the Giants rolled to a 5-0 victory. As has been the case in many Giants games this year, it was scoring by committee. Jonathon Blum, Evander Kane, Casey Pierro-Zabotel, James Wright and Mike Berube scored in the victory. But the story was Sexsmith, as he made numerous saves to keep his team in the game early, including a big stop on Brian Matte breakaway early in the first period, and again thwarted Matte on a shorthanded breakaway in the second period. For Sexsmith, the WHL career shutout record is now his alone. Now at 22 shutouts in his WHL career in just 137 career games, Sexsmith shatters a record that he briefly held with Brian Bridges of Seattle and Leland Irving of Everett. Bridges set the record in 213 career games while Irving matched the record in 195. Sexsmith averages a shutout in every six appearances. With another forty games expected to be played by Sexsmith in the regular season, the Vancouver goalie has an outside chance of 30 career shutouts before the season is complete.
On Saturday night, the Giants wrapped up the PG twin bill with a 5-2 win. Jamie Tucker earned his fifth win of the season for the Giants and is now the first Giants goalie to post five victories to begin his career without suffering a regulation defeat. Tucker, with a 5-0-0-1 record, currently leads the WHL in goals against average with a 1.44 GAA and is second in the league with a 93.6 save percentage.
Scoring goals for the Giants in Saturday's wins were James Henry, Andrej Kudrna, Garry Nunn, James Wright and Evander Kane. Vancouver's 10 goals on the weekend were spread amongst 8 different players, with Kane and Wright grabbing a pair apiece. With a pair of victories in Prince George, the Giants have won all three matchups against their BC Division rivals and have outscored the Cougars 17-5 in that span.
With only 17 games played, the Giants have played the fewest number of games in the WHL so far this season...that is about to change. The Giants will play four games in six nights this week, beginning with Round Two of the Global Cup against the Fraser Valley's Chilliwack Bruins. Back on September 28th, Jon Blum made his season debut in style, scoring once and setting up two others in a 4-1 win over the Bruins. Garry Nunn and Casey Pierro-Zabotel also pitched in with two assists for the G-Men in the victory, while Tyson Sexsmith was sharp, turning aside 25 of 26 shots to earn the win.
On Wednesday, the Giants will begin a home and home series with the Kelowna Rockets. After a slow start, the Rockets have broke orbit and are currently 7-3 in their past ten games and 12-8 through their first twenty. Jamie Benn and Rockets Captain Colin Long have picked up their pace from last season, as Benn is currently tied for the points lead in he WHL with 32 while Long is right with his line mate with 29 points, good for 7th in the WHL points parade. Wednesday's game will be at the Prospera Place in Kelowna, with the return engagement at the Rink on Renfrew, Friday night the 14th. The Giants will round out their weekend on Sunday with a home date versus the Portland Winterhawks. The Hawks have just recently changed hands, ownership-wise and have a familiar face now calling the shots behind the bench as former Canucks Associate Coach Mike Johnston is now the new GM and Head Coach in the Rose City.
* Evander Kane now has a point in every game this season. His seventeen game points streak is the longest in the WHL this season and Kane has 13 goals and 19 assists for 32 points during his extended points run. Kane is currently tied with Jamie Benn of the Kelowna Rockets and former Giant Jason Reese of the Tri City Americans for first in WHL scoring. The longest streak in the WHL last season belonged to Colton Yellow-Horn of the Americans, who scored points in 22 consecutive games. The longest streak to start a season last year belonged to teammate Jonathon Blum, who scored in his first eleven games to begin the 07-08 campaign. Only Mike Comrie of the 2000-01 Kootenay Ice has a longer streak to start the season in the past seven seasons as Comrie scored points in his first 21 games. Jeff Nelson of the 1990-91 Prince Albert Raiders holds the all time record, with points in an amazing 56 consecutive games...
* The Giants are currently leading as a team in...Winning percentage (.912), Western Conference points (31 in 17 games), goals scored (88), goals against (33), power play (29.4% success rate), road penalty kill (an amazing 50/53 for 94.3%), and fewest penalty minutes against (282). Evander Kane as mentioned has a share of the lead in points with 32. Casey Pierro-Zabotel is the leader in assists with 23 and power play assists with 13. Jonathon Blum leads in plus/minus with a +20, Brent Regner is in 2nd at +19. Jamie Tucker is first in goals against with a 1.44 goals against average.
What the score sheet isn't telling you...
The Giants have played their first 17 games in 49 days...the fewest number of games so far by any WHL team. The Giants will play their next seventeen games in just 35 days, which will take them to the Christmas Break on December 16th...
All Giants games can be heard on AM 650. Dave Sheldon will have the call of all games home and away and will have guest commentators join him throughout the season. Bill Wilms of SHAW TV will join Dave for the game in Chilliwack and Kelowna on Tuesday and Wednesday. Steve Ewen of The Province Newspaper will jump behind the mike for the return matchup against the Rockets at the coliseum on Friday while Global TV's Jay Janower will join Dave on Sunday as Portland makes plans to take on Vancouver. The Giants will also appear on SHAW TV this week on Friday in Vancouver versus the Kelowna Rockets.
THE GIANT HOCKEY HOUR can be heard every Thursday night on AM 650 from 7 pm
to 8 pm. This week, Dave Sheldon will chat with goalie TYSON SEXSMITH about
his record breaking performance and also have an interview with REID
MITCHELL of the Toronto Maple Leafs about the LEAFS upcoming visit to
Vancouver on Saturday night. Dave will round out the broadcast by chatting
with Kelowna broadcaster REGAN BARTEL about the return matchup with the
Rockets on Friday night.