Steve Ewen: Giants win 10th straight game, won't lose Byram to suspension after major penalty

Will look to extend streak Friday when Jett Woo, Carson Focht and rest of Calgary Hitmen come to LEC

Vancouver Giants defenceman Bowen Byram faces a possible suspension after receiving a major penalty for checking from behind against the Seattle Thunderbirds on Monday. Robert J. Wilton Vancouver Giant / PNG

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The Vancouver Giants have their longest win streak in over a decade and got the news they wanted Tuesday as they look to extend it.

General manager Barclay Parneta said Tuesday that the WHL had informed him that top defenceman Bowen Byram will not be suspended after getting tossed from Vancouver’s 3-2 triumph Monday afternoon over the Seattle Thunderbirds for a checking from behind major penalty in the third period at the Langley Events Centre.

It was Vancouver’s 10th win a row, equalling a mark from Jan. 17-Feb.7 2009. Vancouver also won 11 straight that season from Dec. 3-Jan. 2 as part of their team record 57-10-2-3 campaign. Vancouver won 10 straight as well from Sept. 23-Oct. 13 2006, and they won 12 straight playoff games en route to the 2006 WHL championship crown.

Byram, the fourth overall pick from last summer’s NHL Draft by the Colorado Avalanche, caught Seattle winger Andrej Kukuca with a check near the Thunderbirds blueline at 9:27 of the third on Monday. Kukuca had turned away from Byram at the time of contact.


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A scrum ensued and both Seattle defenceman Cade McNelly and centre Matthew Rempe went after Byram.

The league office reviews all non-fighting majors. Seven players this season have received suspensions for checking from behind majors.

Kukuca got right back up and became involved in the fracas, never missing a shift. That undoubtedly played into Byram’s favour, as did the fact that he’s never been suspended.

Byram has been a massive part of this run for Vancouver. Byram may be playing his best hockey ever as a Giant, and that includes last year’s playoff run when he led the WHL in scoring. It feels like he’s better defensively, and he’s cut down on errors of over exuberance with the puck.

He has six goals and 18 points in his past nine games, including a goal and an assist on Monday.

He’s just one of several factors in Vancouver recent success, a surge that has seen the Giants (29-20-3-2) move within one point of the Victoria Royals (29-20-5-1) for second place in the B.C. Division with a game in hand.

Vancouver has 14 games remaining, including three in a row against the Royals from Feb. 28-March 1. 

Forward Eric Florchuk had one goal and two assists on Monday against Seattle (21-27-3-3) and now has eight goals and 26 points in 17 games with Vancouver since coming over from the Saskatoon Blades at the Jan. 10 WHL trade deadline. Florchuk has averaged 0.66 points per game in his 240-game WHL career, stepping up to 1.53 points per game with the Giants.

The Vancouver power play went 2-for-4, with goals from Byram and a team-leading 28th tally from winger Tristen Nielsen, and now sits 11th in the league at 21.2 (40-for-189) per cent. Vancouver was at 11.7 (15-for-128) prior to the trade deadline.

As well, the Vancouver penalty kill held off Seattle on that five-minute power play after the Byram call. Trent Miner was solid throughout that stretch and finished with 23 stops on the night in the Vancouver net. He now has turned away 73-of-78 (.936 save percentage) in his past three starts. David Tendeck has stopped 119-of-128 (.930 save percentage) in his last four starts.

“I think our team has lots of confidence right now. We need to continue playing confident. Once we start getting arrogant that’s when we get in trouble. We know the difference,” said Giants coach Michael Dyck. 

“We’re playing a lot faster than we were. I think we’ve got everybody bought into that mentality.”

Vancouver didn’t have forward Justin Sourdif (illness) on Monday and played one skater shy of the 18-maximum. Sourdif, who’s gotten some buzz as a possible first rounder for the 2020 NHL Draft, has been on a roll of late as well, with seven goals and 16 points in his past nine games.

The Giants remain hopeful that he’s back for their next game, a Friday visit to the LEC from the Vancouver Canucks prospects Carson Focht and Jett Woo and the rest of the Calgary Hitmen (31-18-4-1). Focht, a forward the Canucks in the fifth round of last summer’s draft, has 30 goals and 48 points in 51 games. Woo, a defenceman the Canucks selected in the second round of 2018, has seven goals and 39 points in 54 games.

GIANT STEPS: Vancouver forward Zack Ostapchuk has undergone season-ending surgery. He’s been at the LEC on crutches the past few games. Forward Krz Plummer (lower body injury) hasn’t played since getting hurt in a Jan. 18 game in Victoria. No timetable has been released for his return.

sewen@postmedia.com

 

 

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