Western showdown

DEREK VAN DIEST -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 1:13 PM ET

VANCOUVER -- It's only a bone until two dogs decide they want it.

Heading into the WHL final, the Vancouver Giants and Medicine Hat Tigers already knew they were both going to the Memorial Cup.

However both decided they wanted to go in as league champions.

The result was a mammoth, knock-down, drag-'em-out, ill-tempered seven-game series decided in double-overtime of Game 7.

Tonight the two teams meet again in the final game of the Memorial Cup round robin with a shot at first place and a possible bye into the final on the line. That's something else both teams want.

"We have some redemption issues with them," said Giants forward Wacey Rabbit.

"It's a team we don't have any love for. We hate them and I'm sure they hate us. It's going to be a good game."

The Giants head into the contest at 2-0 after beating the Ontario champion Plymouth Whalers and Quebec champion Lewiston Maineiacs. The Tigers lost to the Maineiacs and beat the Whalers.

"We're going to approach this game just like we have any other game in this tournament," said Giants forward Milan Lucic.

"We have to be ready for them. We've played them a lot, so we know what they're all about. We have to get off to a really good start and just put the pressure on them."

The Giants had their way with the Tigers in the Pacific Coliseum during the WHL final. The Tigers were shut out in the final two games in Vancouver and trailed 3-2 heading back for the last two games in Medicine Hat. All three of the Giants wins were shutouts, including a 1-0 series opener in the Hat.

"I don't think it was the building, but more the team we were playing," said Tigers head coach Willie Desjardins.

"It's a tough challenge because they're so tough to play against, but I'm looking forward to it.

"It's a great opportunity for our kids. This place will be full, lots of people will be watching us, so it's a good chance for us to play hard."

With the Giants playing hosts, they had an automatic berth into the event. So when the Tigers defeated the Calgary Hitmen in the WHL Eastern final, and the Giants got past the Prince George Cougars in the West, both teams could start making travel plans for the Memorial Cup.

But that didn't prevent the teams from going to the max to determine the league champion.

The series was chippy and physical from the start.

The bad vibes started early when Tigers agitator Derek Dorsett and Giants forward Kendall McArdle squared off in Game 1.

However Dorsett was recovering from a broken hand and peeled away from McArdle, allowing defenceman Jordan Bendfeld to take his place in the fight.

That didn't sit well with Giants fans. The animosity escalated when Dorsett bit McArdle's finger in Game 3. Dorsett was suspended for the next game and is still booed every time he touches the puck at the Memorial Cup.

Brennan Bosch went on to score the winner in double-overtime in Medicine Hat to give the Tigers their second league title in four years. The Giants had won the WHL championship the year before.

"It's going to be exciting. We definitely know what to expect," said Tigers forward Daine Todd.

"They're playing real well in this tournament and we're going to have to come out with the same type of effort we had against Plymouth."

Tonight's game marks the 10th time this season the two teams will meet this year. They split their two regular-season encounters.

"It's a huge game," said Tigers captain Kris Russell.

"They have a great team and great depth. They obviously play us hard in this building and we just want to make sure that we're prepared for that. We want to play our best hockey game against them, because I know they're going to have theirs."


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