Giants ready to rumble with Bruins

BOB MACKIN -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:27 AM ET

It's city versus country tonight at the Pacific Coliseum as the Vancouver Giants open their B.C. division semifinal series with the underdog Chilliwack Bruins (7:30 p.m. on AM730).

The defending Western Hockey League champions won all eight regular season meetings by a 44-11 margin over the Fraser Valley expansion team.

Three of the games were shutouts.

The Giants won twice by 5-4 scores, including last Sunday's regular season overtime final.

A single win would be consolation for the Brian Burke/Glen Sather-owned Bruins, who were 25-47 (including seven tiebreaker losses).

The Giants, 45-27 (10), are playing for pride. They're automatically in the 2007 MasterCard Memorial Cup as hosts, but are hoping to be known as back-to-back WHL champs for the May 18-27 major junior final four tournament.

Vancouver will rely on Milan Lucic and Tim Kraus for offensive production and Cody Franson on the blueline. Goaltender Tyson Sexsmith matured into the WHL's goals-against-average leader after being thrust into the undisputed number one role when Dustin Slade quit the team last November.

He'll have to watch out for Bruins' Oscar Moller (37 goals and 27 assists) and rookie Mark Santorelli (29/53).

The Giants and the Bruins are a mismatch on the ice and behind the bench. Vancouver head coach Don Hay has two Memorial Cups to his credit, while Bruin boss Jim Hiller is a WHL rookie after two years coaching the B.C. Hockey League's Alberni Valley Bulldogs.

The best-of-seven series continues tomorrow night at the Coliseum before shifting to Chilliwack's Prospera Centre for games three and four on Tuesday and Wednesday.

FIRST ROUND

Giants (1) vs. Bruins (4): n Tonight @ Pacific Coliseum, 7:30 p.m. (AM730)

- Tomorrow @ Coliseum, 7 p.m. (AM730/ CKNW)

- Tuesday @ Prospera Centre, Chilliwack, 7 p.m. (AM730)

- Wednesday @ Chilliwack, 7 p.m. (AM730)

- March 30 @ Coliseum, 7:30 p.m. (AM730/ Shaw TV)*

- March 31 @ Chilliwack, 7 p.m. (AM730/ CKNW)*

- April 4 @ Coliseum, 7 p.m. (AM730)* * if necessary

IN OTHER WHL PLAYOFF ACTION:

- B.C. Division: Kamloops Blazers (2) vs. P.G. Cougars (3);

- East Division: Brandon Wheat Kings (1) vs. P.A. Raiders (4); Regina Pats (2) vs. S.W. Broncos (3);

- Central Division: Medicine Hat Tigers (1) vs. Red Deer Rebels (4); Kootenay Ice (2) vs. Calgary (3);

- U.S. Division: Everett Silvertips (1) vs. Spokane Chiefs (4); Tri-City Americans (2) vs. Seattle (3)


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