Jared Rathjen was the one Giant the Ice couldn’t slay during a 3-2 loss in Vancouver on Tuesday night.
Though Vancouver only put 19 shots on the Kootenay net, Rathjen’s performance in the crease with 33 saves was enough to lift the Giants to the win.
Cain Franson, Travis McEvoy and Jackson Houck provided offence for Vancouver, while Jon Martin and Austin Vetterl, himself an ex-Giant, replied for the Ice.
Mackenzie Skapski took the loss in goal with 16 saves.
Rathjen was the sole reason the Giants were able to stay in the game, as he made some key stops on a few dangerous Ice chances that included robbing Sam Reinhart on a shorthanded breakaway, and stoning Jaedon Descheneau on a two-on-none.
“We definitely out-chanced them, but we seemed to hit him [Rathjen] in the chest more often than not,” said Ice assistant coach Jay Henderson. “We got to bear down, those were good opportunities. We capitalize on a couple and it’s a different outcome, for sure.”
Right from the start, Kootenay seemed to get off on the right foot, with more puck possession and generating more offensive chances against their opponents.
Levi Cable had the best chance in the scoreless first period, taking a pass that put him all alone in front of Rathjen, who made a sharp save to keep it even.
Despite Kootenay carrying the play, Vancouver struck first as Cain Franson dragged the puck out from behind the net and roofed a backhander past Skapski to pen the scoring in the second period.
Jon Martin knotted thing back up five minutes later, beating Rathjen upstairs from the slot off a feed from Vetterl in the corner.
As the seconds ticked down to close the period, Vancouver put a rare shift of pressure in the Kootenay zone and ended up scoring a buzzer-beater.
McEvoy was on the receiving end of a loose puck during a scramble in front of Skapski, and managed to find the back of the net at 19:59.
Kootenay had four power plays alone in the middle frame, and were unable to convert on any of them.
However, the drought wouldn’t last, as the equalizer came in the final period with the man-advantage, on a tic-tac-toe play between Reinhart and Philp, with Vetterl tucking in the puck at the side of the net.
Kootenay took a late penalty and Houck notched the game-winner, tipping a point shot from Brett Kulak with less than five minutes remaining in the contest.
It was the only goal with the man-advantage in two opportunities for the Giants, while Vetterl’s goal was the only marker in five powerplay opportunities for Kootenay.
“Special teams can win or lose you games, and tonight it could’ve gone either way that way, but we had some good looks and just couldn’t capitalize again,” said Henderson.
The game was a homecoming for Reinhart, who got to play in front of his parents and friends at the Pacific Coliseum, close to where he grew up in West Vancouver.
Kootenay will face the Kamloops Blazers on Friday and the Kelowna Rockets on Saturday. They close out the road trip in Prince George on Tuesday.