The schedule can giveth and taketh away in a single road trip. Last night, the Prince George Cougars were in Spokane, where they mauled the Chiefs 6-2. After a 665-kilometre bus trip, they found themselves in Vancouver to face the Giants at the Pacific Coliseum. Had they managed to put up more of a fight, they might have happily made the 10-hour journey home.
On the flip side, the Giants haven't had anything to complain about, except perhaps the ejection and subsequent suspension of superstar Tyler Benson. When they lost the 16-year old in Kelowna, they were up by three goals. After he hit the showers early, they ended up losing by two. They also lost the game he had to sit out due to suspension.
While it's still too early to worry about the standings, there is the 2016 Memorial Cup to worry about. On Wednesday, the league's 22-member clubs will vote on whether to award the tournament to Vancouver or Red Deer.
And it could all come down to the Giants record, which is currently one win better than the Rebels. In such things, the margins can be that narrow.
On the surface, the cases could not be more different. The Western Hockey League currently has five clubs based in Alberta, but the province hasn't played host to the Memorial Cup since 1974. The Giants hosted it as recently as 2007.
The Rebels' capacity is 6,706, while the Giants can offer 16,281, or just under 10,000 more seats than the competition. In fact, the Pacific Coliseum is the second largest stadium in the league, trailing only the Calgary Hitman who share a stadium with the NHL's Calgary Flames.
The last time the Giants hosted the tournament, they set an attendance record with an average of 13,506 per game. And six tournaments later, that records still stands tall.
It's a powerful argument. Under the current structure, the league's owners share the proceeds from the 4-team, 9-match event, so higher attendance equals more money in the owners' pockets.
But the Rebels are owned by Brent Sutter, hockey royalty in these parts, and he'll be tugging on the heartstrings, talking up the fact that the province provides many of the players, including Benson, but hasn't hosted the tournament in two generations.
Which is why we think that the Giants form will prove to be the deciding factor. They have been playing attractive hockey and have already scored nine goals more than the Rebels. If they could maintain that form over an entire season, they'd light the lamp 336 times to the Rebels 228, or a difference of 108.
When you consider that the host team automatically qualifies, it's in the league's best interest to award the tournament to the strongest side they can find. And by the time the 2016 tournament rolls around, Benson will be 18-years old, and an obvious player to market the tournament around.
But as for tonight's game, it was the Cougars who struck first, thanks to a Jari Erricson power play goal in the 7th minute, and held the lead until the dying moments of the first period, when Carter Popoff got the equaliser. Both goals were scored while on the power play.
In the second period, the Giants scored their own kind of hat trick, scoring an even strength, power play, and shorthanded goal, with Popoff doubling the lead before Jackson Houck and Thomas Foster put the game out of reach.
Adding salt to the wound, Joel Hamilton and Ryely McKinstry would add third period markers, making for a commanding 6-1 performance by the home side.
The Giants next action will be a pair of games in Prince George on Saturday and Sunday, before they return home on October 17th for a tilt with the Kamloops Blazers.
Man of the Match: Carter Popoff
Referees: Steve Papp and Nick Swaine
7' - PGE - Jari Erricson (Sam Ruopp, Jansen Harkins, Power Play)
19' - VAN - Carter Popoff (Joel Hamilton, Mason Geertsen, Power Play)
29' - VAN - Carter Popoff (Jackson Houck, Joel Hamilton)
34' - VAN - Jackson Houck (Dmitry Osipov, Clayton Kirichenko, Power Play)
40' - VAN - Thomas Foster (Tyler Benson, Short, Shorthanded)
45' - VAN - Joel Hamilton (Ryan McKinstry, Jackson Houck)
56' - VAN - Ryan McKinstry (Dmitry Osipov, Dalton Sward, Power Play)
Shots: Vancouver 39 - Prince George 21
Saves: Vancouver 20 - Prince George 33
Power Plays: Vancouver 5 - Prince George 4
Penalty Minutes: Vancouver 18 - Prince George 20
6' - VAN - Matt Bellerive (High Sticking)
11' - PGC - Marc McNulty (Holding)
18' - PGC - Tyler Mrkonjic (Tripping)
25' - PGC - Marc McNulty (Elbowing)
33' - PGC - Tate Olson (Kneeing)
36' - VAN - Matt Bellerive (Tripping)
41' - VAN - Thomas Foster (Goaltender Interference)
55' - PGC - Wil Tomchuk (High Sticking)
29' - PGC - Tyler Mrkonjic (Fighting)
29' - VAN - Ryan McKinstry (Fighting)
57' - PGC - Aaron Macklin (Fighting)
57' - VAN - Arvin Atwal (Fighting)
1. Payton Lee (35. Cody Porter); 4. Clayton Kirichenko (22. Dmitry Osipov, 3. Brennan Menell); 44.Mason Geertsen (26. Ryan McKinstry, 20. Arvin Atwal); 27. Jackson Houck (14. Matt Bellerive, 8. Alec Baer, 19. Jesse Roach); 42. Carter Popoff (16. Thomas Foster, 9. Dalton Sward, 47. Vladimir Bobylev); 39. Joel Hamilton (17. Tyler Benson, 12. David Brumm, 37. Brendan Holterhus)
Prince George Cougars
35. Ty Edmonds (1. Tavin Grant); 27. Josepph Carvalho (5. Wil Tomchuk, 28. Josh Anderson); 3. Marc McNulty (25. Tate Olson, 2. Sam Ruopp); 8. Chase Witala (9. Brad Morrison, 10. Tyler Mrkonjic, 17. Aaron Macklin); 12. Jansen Harkins (11. Jordan Ross, 20. Haydin Hopkins, 13. Cal Babych); 15. Jari Erricson (18. David Soltes, 14. Colby McAuley, 23. Aaron Boyd)