The Vancouver Giants are finding ways to win simply because they're making it difficult for opponents to score against them.
The Prince George Cougars, for two periods at least Friday night, were equally airtight.
All it took to upset the balance was a three-goal outburst in a four-minute stretch of the third period. That was all the offence the Giants needed to post their second consecutive shutout - a 3-0 victory over the Cats in front of 2,344 witnesses at CN Centre.
Owen Hardy got it going at 5:11, converting on a 3-on-1 break right after the Cougars had been denied on a 4-on-2 chance at the opposite end when Giant defenceman Ty Ettinger deflected a pass into the slot out of harm's way while sliding on the ice.
Justin Sourdif added to the count on another odd-man rush at 7:24 when he got to his own deflection at the side of the net, beating Taylor Gauthier from a sharp angle. Then at 9:04, with the Giants on their second power play of the game, Lukas Svejkovsky ripped off a snap shot that beat Gauthier high to the blocker side just under the crossbar, the first of his WHL career for the 17-year-old native of Point Roberts, Wash.
Until that brief foray, it was anybody's game.
Quality chances came at a premium in a scoreless first period that had very few stoppages of play. The Cougars carried the play in the second period and outshot the Giants 13-5. They held the puck in the offensive end for several extended stretches and forced goalie David Tendeck out of his comfort zone. For the Giants, it was a pivotal period holding the Cougars off the scoresheet.
Tyson Upper used his speed to get free with a left wing rush and Tendeck had to kick out his pad to keep the rookie winger from scoring the first of his WHL career.
Josh Maser came close to notching his first of the season near the end of the period, deflecting a point shot right on net. The 19-year-old Houston native led the Cougars last season with 28 goals and he's been working hard utilizing his six-foot-two, 207-pound bulk to create opportunities on a line with Ilijah Colina and Josh Curtis. But that line has struggled to find the net, accounting for just three goals and four points this season.
The Prince George power play has been a sore spot since the start of the season and they came into the game limping along at a 1-for-25 clip. Ranked 21st out of 22 teams with an abysmal four per cent success rate, they spent the week in practice trying to work out the bugs but went without a goal or a real Grade-A chance on either of their two extra-man opportunities and are now 1-for-27.
The Giants (4-1-0-0) have won three straight and have allowed just nine goals in six games this season. They started their trip Wednesday with a 5-0 win over the Rockets in Kelowna. The Cougars (2-3-0-1) have lost their last two and have been held without a goal since the second period of last Saturday's game against Kelowna.
The Cougars and Giants will play each other eight times this season. Game 2 goes tonight at 7.
LOOSE PUCKS: The Cougars named centre Ethan Browne as their player of the month for September. In five games the 17-year-old from Sherwood Park, Alta., scored two goals and had two assists for four points, which left him tied for the team lead with defenceman Ryan Schoettler. Browne joined the Cougars in January, coming over in a trade from the Everett Silvertips for forward Ethan O'Rourke. He played 30 games with the Cats in his rookie season and collected a goal and 10 assists. Browne was the starting centre Friday, playing on a line with Jackson Leppard and Vladislav Mikhalchuk.