Goaltender David Tendeck could be back between the pipes for the Vancouver Giants when the WHL quarter-final series shifts to the Langley Events Centre.
Tendeck, who missed the last three games of the regular season and games one and two of the team’s best-of-seven series with the Victoria Royals over the weekend, was a full participant in Monday’s practice at the LEC.
Out with an upper-body injury, Tendeck — a Western Conference second team all-star with just MVP candidate Carter Hart ahead of him at the goaltender position — only skated last week but did not take part in practice.
Head coach Jason McKee said the training staff will meet with Tendeck on Tuesday (March 27) and see how he feels before making a decision.
And if he can’t go, rookie Trent Miner will start game three.
Miner played a major role in the Giants earning a split over the weekend in Victoria.
He was sublime in game one, delivering a 40-save performance in a 2-1 victory.
Both teams’ offences got on track in game two with Victoria evening the series at one thanks to a 5-4 win.
Vancouver was down 3-1 after 20 minutes and had the bulk of the chances in the third period but could not force overtime.
Shots on goal were 37-26 for Vancouver, including 13-4 over the final 20 minutes.
“We played well,” McKee said.
“Both teams played hard — it was physical, it was fast.
“I like how our team responded. Every man was engaged.”
The series now shifts to the LEC for games three (March 27) and four (March 29) before returning to Victoria’s Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre for game five on Saturday night.
“It is always a good thing to get a win in their building, it gives us momentum coming back home,” said Giants winger Dawson Holt, who had a pair of goals in game two.
The winger did caution that the players can’t get caught up too much in the atmosphere.
“The support behind you is always a big thing, but we can’t focus too much on our fans,” he said. “We just have to play our game and play how we did in Victoria.”
McKee echoed those thoughts.
“We don’t want to get away from that simple hard hockey that has been working for us. We have really been trying to play a north game, getting people and traffic in front of the net,” he said.
Holt said the team will keep the same game plan as the series shifts to Langley.
“Try to keep the same plan, get pucks to the net, make (Victoria goalie Griffen) Outhouse’s life hard. Crash the net and get pucks on net,” the winger said.
While Tendeck remains a possibility, the Giants already know they will be without two key players, forward Brayden Watts and defenceman Darian Skeoch.
Watts is out with an upper-body injury after taking a big hit from Victoria’s Chaz Reddekopp.
Justin Sourdiff — who turned 16 on Saturday — is expected to play a bigger role in Watts’ absence as the third overall pick in last year’s bantam draft didn’t look out of place in either game one or two, delivering a big hit which sent the Royals’ Tanner Kaspick to the locker room and he did not return.
Vancouver also received some clarity on Skeoch’s availability, as he was suspended following his game one hit. On Monday, the WHL announced that Skeoch — a repeat offender — will be eligible to return in game five on Saturday, back in Victoria.
And McKee said the team will lean on the experience they gained in February when they were missing as many as six regulars from the line-up, giving others a chance to step up.
“We went through the injury bug in February and guys played lots of minutes so will lean on that experience,” he said.
McKee did day he expects to go back to the 12-forward, six-defencemen alignment. The Giants went with 11/7 for game two but that was more to do with the fact they had played game one the night before with five defencemen for all but 75 seconds after Skeoch got tossed early.
Candidates to return to the line-up front include Tyler Ho, Cyle McNabb, Aidan Barfoot and Evan Patrician.
Vancouver’s penalty kill has done a good job so far, killing off eight of nine penalties, including all five minutes of Skeoch’s game one major. But the Giants power play has yet to connect against the league’s second worst penalty kill during the regular season.
Of course, they haven’t had many opportunities: the Giants were 0-for-4 in game one and were unsuccessful on their only attempt of game two.
“For us, we can’t worry about the refs decisions. We have to control what we can control. If we play hard, we will get our fair share of power plays,” McKee said.