Hometown heroics

DEREK VAN DIEST -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 12:45 PM ET

VANCOUVER -- The Vancouver Giants proved to be too much.

The odds were with them.

The crowd was with them.

And yesterday they were able to exact a measure of revenge for losing in the WHL final by beating the Medicine Hat Tigers 3-1 in front of 16,281 fans at the Pacific Coliseum to claim the Memorial Cup.

Michal Repik scored the winning goal with less than five minutes remaining in the third period to give the hosts the victory.

'ALWAYS GREAT'

"It's always great when you can score the winning goal," said the native of Vlasim, Czech Republic.

"This is a great team and a great organization. It's too bad we didn't win the WHL final, but we are happy that we were able to come out tonight and win the biggest trophy in junior hockey."

Spurred on by the partisan crowd, the Giants were all over the Tigers in the first period.

Had it not been for Tigers goaltender Matt Keetley, the game would have been over by the first intermission.

The Giants outshot the Tigers 17-5 in the opening frame, yet the teams were scoreless after 20 minutes.

"We knew we had to get it going tonight and they didn't let us get going," said Tigers head coach Willie Desjardins.

"They're a well-coached hockey team, they have great talent.

"When you have that combination, it's tough to play against."

It would have been tough for anybody to deny the Giants on this day. They had been looking forward to this contest since losing to Medicine Hat in double overtime of Game 7 of the WHL final.

Mario Bliznak opened the scoring in the second period, getting to a rebound in front of the net and lifting the puck over Keetley.

The goal actually seemed to relax the Tigers.

After being completely dominated through the first half of the game, Medicine Hat began creating chances.

With just over four minutes to go in the period, Darren Helm - the Tigers' best offensive player to that point - executed a perfect give-and-go with Derek Dorsett to tie the game.

"We knew we couldn't get frustrated after they tied it; we just had to stick with it and stay composed," said Vancouver forward and tournament MVP Milan Lucic. "We just had to keep getting pucks to the net."

The Giants ended up outshooting the Tigers 40-15. However it was Repik who decided the contest by coming out from behind the net and finding a hole between Keetley's pads on a wrap-around.

Seconds later, Edmonton native Tyler Ennis took a cross-checking penalty that cost the Tigers valuable comeback time. Then, with just over two minutes left, Gord Baldwin was assessed a tripping minor that sealed the Tigers' fate.

Spencer Machacek potted an empty net goal to round out the scoring.

"This is redemption," Lucic said. "We were a little disappointed when we couldn't win the WHL championship. But in the end this is better."

The Memorial Cup final was the 11th meeting of the year between the two teams and ninth this month. The Tigers had won the last three encounters.

"We never thought about that once, not once at all," said Tigers forward Derek Dorsett. "For some reason, we never came out hard in the first period. We expected them to come out hard, but I think we got a little nervous and a little too excited."

FIRST TITLE

The Memorial Cup victory is the first for the Giants, who joined the WHL in 2001. They won their first WHL title last year, but fell in the semifinal of the national tournament in Moncton.

"What's special is when you win it with an organization for the first time," said Giants head coach Don Hay, who has two Memorial Cup championships from his days with Jarome Iginla in Kamloops.

"This team went through some tough times, but we built it the right way and it's very rewarding."


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