NW Giants catch Rockets in weekend thriller

in regular season


Feb 10, 2014

A 4-3 win Feb 9, by the Vancouver NW Giants over the Okanagan Rockets topped off an incredible weekend of high intensity major midget hockey for the two teams.

The Rockets entered the series with a two point lead over NW Giants. The two game series at home would be the final regular season matchup between the two offensive powerhouses, and the Giant’s final opportunity to match the Rockets in the standings.

The Rockets had won both their home games in a series against the Giants back in mid November, 2-1 and 5-2, games in which the younger Giants were snake bitten offensively, despite getting a lots of shots on goal.

In the opening game at BWC on Saturday night (Feb 8), the Rockets tallied first on a goal by Branden Wagner with assists from Jake Kriski and Mahlon Head mid way through the first.

The Giant’s Dante Fabbro, a first year player who is the top scoring defenceman in the league and fifth overall, answered about eight minutes into the second on a set up  from Justin Szeto and Colton Kerfoot, who are first and third in league scoring.

The lead was short-lived however, as Cory Santoro moved the Rockets ahead on assists from Tanner Campbell (5th in league scoring) and Carter Hikichi, to carry a 2-1 into the third.

The Rockets then went ahead 3-1 with just six minutes left in the third on a power play goal by Tyson Jost, a first year player who is second in league scoring. The goal was also set up by Campbell, with helper from Kriski.

The excitement was just beginning.

Kerfoot quickly showed why he is the league scoring leader, bringing the Giants to within one, on assists from Szeto and Fabbro, just 30 seconds later.

Two minutes later Fabbro was assessed an interference minor and Jost quickly added his second power play goal, again assisted by Campbell and Kriski, to make it 4-2 with just 2:29 remaining.

Game over? Nope. Kerfoot scores again, 23 seconds later, on another assist from Szeto and Fabbro, 4-3, 2:06 left.

Then with a 1:12 left, Quinn Thompson, the third man on the Kerfoot-Szeto line, ties the game. Szeto would get his fourth assist on the goal, with Quinn Benjafield getting the helper. 4-4 final.

A scrum at the end  resulted in next game suspensions for Giants Ty Schultz and Rockets Branden Wagner.

First year goaltender from Burnaby Minor, Tavin Grant, got the tie.

The thriller couldn’t have set up game two any better.

On Sunday morning, the Giants would open the scoring first, on another marker from Fabbro, with assists from Kerfoot and Quinn Thompson.

The rest of the period was scoreless. The Giants would take a 2-0 lead early in the second on an unassisted goal by Keyvan Mokhtari.

This time it was the Rockets turn for a quick reply, which came from Mahlon Head 27 second later, also unassisted.

Tyson Jost would even the score at 2-2 before the end of the period, with Head assisting.

Then right off puck drop at the start of the third, the Rockets would take the lead, on a goal by Liam Finlay, the team’s second leading scorer, with an assist from Tanner Wishnowski.

But as in the game the day before, the Rockets would come back with two more late goals. Fabbro’s second of the game, a power play marker set up by Carmine Buono and Quinn Thompson came with 7:10 remaining.

Keegan Jones game winner on helpers from Jack Tadey and Ryland Chernomaz was scored with 5:45 left.

This time there would be no last minute scoring, and the Giants would hold on to win 4-3.

The weekend’s results moved them into a tie with the Rockets with both teams posting identical 27-5-2 records and remarkably, almost identical goals for and against records, with the Rockets have a one goal edge, 187-86

Afterwards, NW Giants head coach Clint Thornton praised his squad for its gutsy no-quit game.

“These two games proved we can compete, and score, against an older, top ranked team.  We’re improving defensively and learning to create offense from it.”

The teams top line of Szeto-Kerfoot-Thompson and budding all-star defenceman Dante Fabbro played a big part offensively in the series, scoring 11 of 12 points in game one, and 5 of 9 in game, but Thornton pointed out there were guys not on the scoresheet who were also big contributors.

“Mitch Stapley played huge, especially filling in the gap in game two with Schultz out of the line up.

“Our shut down line of Jack Tadey, Ryland Chernomaz and Keegan Jones did a great job of limiting their top guys scoring chances.”

Thornton also pointed out the strong play of first year goal tender Tavin Grant out of Burnaby Minor.

“He’s improved tremendously, especially in his mental strength and game preparation.”

The NW Giants will close out the remaining six games against Kootenay, Blazers and Prince George, teams ranked last, second last and sixth.

The Rockets will close out against Greater Vancouver Canadians (4th), Prince George (10th) and Vancouver NE Chiefs (5th).