Saturday, April 11, 2009

What a game!

Just finished watching an epic marathon game between the Vancouver Giants and the Spokane Chiefs. It wound up going into the fourth overtime before Spokane's Blake Gal was able to put it away; he wound up with a breakaway in transition after the Chiefs' Dustin Tokarski made a save at the other end. Mike Berube of the Giants caught him and lifted his stick, but wound up knocking the puck into his own net past a surprised Tyson Sexsmith, who was readying himself for a deke from Gal. It was the second-longest game in WHL history.

It's games like this that prove how much fun a good junior hockey game can be. This one was certainly worth the time invested; both of these teams have tons of talent and it was tremendous to watch them battling full-tilt as the night went on. The great thing about the WHL in my mind is the consistent emphasis on defence, checking and goaltending; I've seen plenty of OHL and QMJHL games over the years, but they often seem to turn into just players floating around the offensive zone and refusing to backcheck. Sometimes, good defence is just as much fun to watch as all-out shootouts. Tonight's game, which turned into a great goaltending duel between Tokarski and Sexsmith, was a tremendous example.

This could wind up being a key moment in the WHL playoffs. The defending Memorial Cup champion Chiefs have now won three straight games and lead their series against the Giants 3-2. They're clicking just at the right time, while the Giants seem to be faltering a bit, and the Chiefs now have all the momentum going into Sunday's game back in Spokane. This Vancouver team is no stranger to adversity, though, and they put up a superb 57-10-5 record this year (second in the WHL behind only the Calgary Hitmen). Don't count them out before the final green light flashes.

See Marc Weber's coverage over at The Dub Hub for more details on the game.

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