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The Portland Winterhawks just completed their first weekend playing three games in three nights. The weekend didn’t go how they hoped as they lost all three games. One positive was backup goalie Dante Giannuzzi’s performance in his first WHL game on Friday night against the Spokane Chiefs.
Shane Farkas started the first 11 games for Portland after serving as the backup goalie last season. Farkas had a strong second half of last season including a stretch where he won eight consecutive games, posted back-to-back shutouts against the Tri-City Americans and won the WHL and CHL goalie of the week awards. With the way the schedule played out early this season, there were plenty of days between games where Farkas could get the necessary rest.
Both Farkas and Giannuzzi have been able to spend time in practice working with Goaltending Consultant Angelo Maggio as well as Goaltending Coach, and 18-year NHL veteran, Andy Moog. In practice they worked on positioning, rebound control, and tracking the puck both behind the net and from low-to-high. For Giannuzzi, the work put in practice as well as the off-season helped prepare him for his first WHL start. Dante told Nick Marek of winterhawks.com, “It was a busy summer for me. Almost every day I was either in the gym or on the ice. I think it was preparing me and was trying to get better.”
Giannuzzi’s first start came on the road and against one of the top teams in the Western Conference. Winterhawks captain Cody Glass said, “that is a good team and a contender over there, especially with them getting Anderson-Dolan back.” When Glass spoke about Dante’s first start he said, “he played unbelievable. That team has some real fire power.”
Head coach Mike Johnston felt, “Dante was real good against Spokane.” The Winterhawks limited the quantity of chances on the 16-year-old Winnipeg native netminder, but the opportunities the Chiefs did have were in tight and grade-A. There was one goal where Johnston thought “Dante may have liked one back, but he played strong overall.” Glass was quick to point out “Dante had three highlight-reel saves in the game. For a 16-year-old going into his first game against that type of team, you don’t see that very often; credit to him.”
The Winterhawks were not able to provide enough offensive support, so Giannuzzi will have to wait to get his first win. In the end, Dante stopped 18 shots and showed poise in the net. After the game he spoke with winterhawks.com about playing his first game, “it was awesome and really exciting. The atmosphere was bumping so that was pretty cool. Finally got into the net and got some action which is always great. It wasn’t the outcome we wanted, but for sure was a great experience.”
This coming weekend is another three games in three nights for the Winterhawks. Chances are Giannuzzi will get his second start, and possibly first at home, against Victoria. Otherwise, he may get the opportunity to start in Spokane again.
Looking back, Glass said, “Dante played his heart out, that is something you expect out of a 16-year-old; we love that kid.”
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Dante has trained with GDI for over 7 years through 1v1 Lessons, Minor Hockey Clinics and the G1 Off-Season Program.