Collision Course With Kamloops
The Vancouver Giants (35-22-1-3) have less then a month left in their regulation season schedule as they continue the quest for home ice advantage in the first round of the 2012 WHL Playoffs. With 11 games remaining (4 vs. VAN, 3 vs. VIC, 2 vs. KEL, 1 vs. MH, 1 vs. TRI) the Giants currently sit in 4th place in the Western Conference, 3 points up on Spokane. The Chiefs though still have 2 games in hand. 4 of the Giants remaining 11 games are vs. the Kamloops Blazers, the top team in the WHL. This Friday marks the first of two home and home series between these division rivals in the final month of the regular season. Puck drop is 7:30 pm at the Pacific Coliseum on Friday and 7:00 pm at the Interior Savings Center in Kamloops on Saturday.
So far this season the Giants are 2-2-0-0 against the Blazers. The home team has won every game. In their last meeting back on Febraury 3, 2012, the Giants defeated Kamloops 7-5 at the Pacific Coliseum. Nathan Burns has thrived this year vs. the Blazers, scoring 5 of his 10 goals this year in the 4 match ups with Kamloops. Blazers blueliner Austin Madaisky leads Kamloops with 4 goals and 1 assist in the 4 games, but will miss Friday night's game in Vancouver while serving the second game of a 2 game suspension for cross-checking.
The Blazers (42-14-1-3) currently sit 1st in the BC Division, 1st in the Western Conference, and 1st overall in the WHL with 88 points. However, their lead has dwindled down to just 1 point over the Portland Winterhawks. Kamloops has 12 games (4 vs. VAN, 2 vs. KEL, 2 vs. PG, 2 vs. POR, 1 vs. EVT, 1 vs. SPO) remaining in ther regular season schedule and come into the weekend having won 8 of their last 11 games. Brendan Ranford leads the way offensively with 77 points on the season. He is 11th in league scoring and currently is riding an 11 game point streak in which he has 9 goals and 9 assists. 17 year old Tim Bozon leads all WHL rookies with 61 points on the season, 2 more then fellow rookie Marek Tvrdon. Goaltender Cole Cheveldave will have something to say about who should be the Blazers rookie of the year. The 18 year old is also in his first year and is 5th in league in wins (29), 3rd in goals against average (2.52), and 5th in save percentage (.912). 42 wins this year is the most for the Blazers organization since the 1998-99 season and the club is on the verge of winning their first BC Division banner since 2001-02.
Friday the Giants will welcome back 3 players to the line up. Marek Tvrdon returns after serving his 3 game suspension for a spearing match penalty, Anthony Ast is back after a 4 game suspension for a charging major, and Dalton Sward is available to play after missing 18 games with an upper body injury. He was hurt January 13 vs. Tri-City. Brendan Gallagher continues his quest to become the franchise's all-time leader in career points. He is three points shy of passing Adam Courchaine for the most points in franchise history. Gallagher has 271 points in 234 career regular season games. The Giants are 6-3-0-1 in the month of February
VANCOUVER VS. KAMLOOPS - SEASON SERIES
September 30 at Kamloops - Blazers 6 Giants 2 Final
December 27 at Vancouver - Giants 4 Blazers 3 Final/SO
December 28 at Kamloops - Blazers 3 Giants 1 Final
February 3 at Vancouver - Giants 7 Blazers 5 Final
February 24 at Vancouver
February 25 at Kamloops
March 9 at Vancouver
March 10 at Kamloops