Vancouver continues WHL hub season Tuesday by playing Victoria in Kamloops
Tristen Nielsen had three goals and two assists, Justin Sourdif had helpers on four goals and underage call-up defenceman Mazden Leslie scored twice in his first WHL game to help the Vancouver Giants to a 6-0 win over the Kelowna Rockets Sunday at the Sandman Centre in their second game of the B.C. Division hub season.
Trent Miner made 20 saves in the Vancouver net for the shutout.
Vancouver dropped a 7-3 decision to the Kamloops Blazers on Friday to open proceedings. The Giants (1-1-0-0) face the Victoria Royals (0-1-0-0) on Tuesday at the Sandman Centre.
“A lot of things that gave us some trouble in our opener, we felt that we were able to correct them and play the game on the right side of the puck,” Giants associate coach Keith McCambridge told play-by-play man Dan O’Connor in an interview on Sportsnet 650 after the game.
Nielsen had a short-handed marker, a power play tally and then an even-strength goal in the first period to stake Vancouver to a 3-0 lead. One of Vancouver’s three 20 year olds in this abbreviated season, Nielsen is trying to land a pro contract for next season.
“When I look at players like Nieler, he’s a difference maker,” said McCambridge. “He’s one of those players that, if you’re down one or you need that momentum swing, can make a huge difference.
“His speed jumps out. That’s something that can’t be taught.”
Sourdif was a third-round draft pick of the Florida Panthers in October. He originally had assists on Nielsen’s three goals. One of those scoring plays was changed. Sourdif wound up with assists on both of Leslie’s tallies as well.
Leslie, a 15-year-old rearguard Vancouver picked No. 10 overall in last April’s WHL bantam draft, scored twice in the second period to make it 5-0. Leslie looked confident pushing the play offensively throughout the night. The last 15-year-old defenceman to play with that type of confidence was Bowen Byram, the 19-year-old currently playing for the Colorado Avalanche.
“He’s such raw talent. I mean that in a good way. You have to make sure when you’e coaching a player like that you don’t take away the gifts that he has, the instincts that he has. He makes good reads, his ability to jump into the play, get pucks through from the point … the offensive side comes natural to him,” said McCambridge. “It’s the defensive side…obviously as a young defenceman it’s something that you continue to learn as you progress through your hockey career.
Adam Hall added Vancouver’s other goal off a cheeky Nielsen feed in the third period. Roman Basran made 31 saves for the Rockets (1-1-0-0).
The Giants, Rockets, Blazers, Royals and Prince George Cougars are playing 24-game seasons based out of hubs in Kamloops and Kelowna. No fans are permitted in the rinks for games.
The Giants and Cougars are staying at a hotel in Kamloops. The Royals are doing the same in Kelowna. The Rockets and Blazers are remaining at their billet homes. The league is paying for additional COVID-19 testings for the teams.