Cole Shepard didn’t look like a guy who hadn’t played a hockey game since last March.
Shepard, an off-season addition for the Vancouver Giants who underwent hip surgery in May, sparkled in his debut with Vancouver on Saturday night, and wound up scoring in regulation and then again in the shootout in a 4-3 win over the Swift Current Broncos before a crowd at 3,934 at the Langley Events Centre.
Vancouver (7-6-0-0) was coming off a lacklustre 6-0 loss to the Kamloops Blazers on Friday, and against the Broncos they were missing first-line winger Justin Sourdif, who suffered some sort of leg injury in the late going against the Blazers. Shepard helped give the Giants a much-needed boost. He was dangerous offensively on several shifts, thanks in part to his speed.
Prior to Saturday, his last game was in the BCHL playoffs with the Penticton Vees on March 11, 2019. His signing with Vancouver drew attention since he had been committed to Harvard University.
“He was even better than I thought he was going to be tonight,” explained Giants coach Michael Dyck, whose team also added Cole’s older brother Jackson Shepard, a winger, over the summer in a trade. “With all the time he had off and just practising instead of playing, I thought he’d have a little more rust.
“He’s got that skill that we need in order to finish around the net. Ringette line and below, he’s deadly.”
Shepard, 17, added: “It was a long six months for me. It was just a huge relief to get back and it was awesome to get the win.”
Vancouver winger Sergei Alkhimov snuck a shot past Swift Current netminder Reece Klassen on the Giants’ ninth attempt of the shootout and then Vancouver netminder Trent Miner stayed with Hayden Ostir’s deke attempt to secure the victory.
It was the fifth straight defeat for Swift Current (2-6-1-2), who were playing their fourth of five games on a B.C. road trip. The fact that they hung around for as long as they did against a team with lofty playoff aspirations like Vancouver should be concerning for Giants brass.
That said, Miner turned over a puck on a Swift Current goal, and the Broncos scored with 0:12 left in the second period against the flow of the play.
Vancouver also did have more jump than they had against the Blazers. Dyck was rallying around that afterwards.
Klassen finished with 36 saves in regulation and overtime, Miner made 23.
“It was a good response from last night,” said Dyck. “This is the kind of team that’s capable of beating anybody. They did it with Calgary, they almost did it with Kelowna. We played well for the most part. We played on our toes. I thought we deserved to win.
“We had lots of chances. It was all about the finish.”
The Giants are home to the Victoria Royals Sunday at the LEC (4 p.m., Sportsnet 650).
Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2019