Giants can’t hit the net, lose to Morgan Rielly (and the Warriors)

Rielly: Came. Saw. Conquered.

"You are guaranteed to miss 100 per cent of the shots you don’t take," Wayne Gretzky once said. The Vancouver Giants tested out the opposite of that theory on Wednesday night, having plenty of trouble hitting the net on the shots they did take in going down 2-1 to the Moose Jaw Warriors.

Despite being led by highly-touted Leafs prospect Morgan Rielly, the Warriors rode into town a midding team and a not-unreasonable target for the struggling Giants. Through two periods, though the Giants were being dominated in the shots-on-net count, it was a game for the taking. But then Rielly woke up, and the Giants couldn’t find anything to match him.

It’s a rebuilding year for the Giants and games like this have become par-for-the-course. How their collection of young players and older stop-gaps handle what is not going to be a long season will be a story in itself.

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But for now, some stats and analysis of Wednesday’s game. (After the jump!)

– If ever there was an example of how shots don’t tell a whole story, last night’s first period is one. Moose Jaw outshot the Giants 14-2 after one, but the game was tied 1-1. Chances, though, were a little tighter – 7-4 for the Warriors. MJ threw a lot of pucks at the net, from all over the ice, a trend that would carry through the whole game. Was it an effort to challenge Payton Lee’s attention span? If it was, it didn’t work.

– Morgan Rielly didn’t get up to much until the third period. In the course of two shifts, though, he showed why he’s so highly regarded. With the Giants on an early-period powerplay, Rielly (yes, playing defence) found himself on a shorthanded breakaway. He made a nice move to open up Lee, but rang his shot off the iron. Just over a minute later, now at even strength, Rielly made a pair of very smooth puck-handling decisions in traffic; the first to get out of a defensive corner and then, down-ice, to keep the puck in at the blue line.

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– Later, Rielly’s winner was another example of his man vs boys act. Jumping up to lead the rush, Rielly found himself on a two-on-one. Coming down the left, he fired a hard, low shot at Lee – testing his five-hole, which the young netminder has been working to improve. Lee stopped the puck but spilled the rebound right back to Rielly who wired his second shot into the net. Lee never had time to recover.

– Rielly finished with 4 of his team’s 21 scoring chances.

– Chances were 16-15 in Moose Jaw’s favour at even strength.

– Also impressive for the Warriors was leading scorer Sam Fioretti. He also had four scoring chances but created a couple others for linemates Tanner Eberle and Brayden Point. Fioretti was ever-present at skirmished in front of the net, both before and after the whistle.

– The Giants’ Trevor Cheek was far and away their biggest threat. He had six scoring chances of his own, while creating loads of space for linemates Carter Popoff (3 chances) and Jackson Houck (2 chances). That’s 11 of Vancouver’s 19 scoring chances on the night. 

– Cheek looked like he might have scored late in the second, but the net was judged to have come off the moorings before the puck crossed the line. It was a contentious call.

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– Cheek had a late chance to tie the game but deflected the hard pass to the slot over the crossbar. He was visibly frustrated after the game. "I thought we worked really hard. We had a couple bad penalties. You can never take a too-many-men penalty [the Giants took two], that’s just a mental error," he said. "I’ve got to take responsibility myself, I had quite a few chances that I’ve got to bear down on. I didn’t do that tonight, which I wasn’t too happy about."

On being the team’s new leader on offence: "Obviously losing Marek wasn’t a good thing, he’ s a great player, and a good teammate as well. I try not to think about being the top scorer too much, I do know that I need to bear down more. I didn’t do that tonight and I need to make sure I do that in the future."

He admitted the losing is frustrating. "It’s hard to forget about the game right away, I tend to think about it," he said. "But [the next day] you get to the rink and work at getting better. We’ve been having some good practices all week and I think our team is learning to carry that into games, step-by-step."

Working on being a leader might be his silver lining, though: "Obviously being a 20 year-old, it’s part of my job to be leading by example, leading off the ice. I try to do my best to lead on the ice first and using my voice on the bench to make sure the guys are ready to go and what’s going on."

– The Giants took very few shots from the outside, preferring to take the puck to the slot and try their luck there. They generated several rebound chances. They also had some success working the puck out front from behind the net, including the game’s opening goal by Tristan Sieben. Sieben tucked the puck around the right post, beating Moose Jaw goalie Justin Paulic’s slide across the goal line.

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