VANCOUVER, B.C. – The Medicine Hat Tigers continue to do everything they can to spoil what was supposed to be a yearlong celebration for the Vancouver Giants.
Medicine Hat heaped more misery on Vancouver Wednesday night when the Tigers defeated the Giants 1-0 at Pacific Coliseum in the final round-robin game of the Memorial Cup.
This was supposed to be Vancouver’s season of triumph. The Giants were the defending WHL champions with the bulk of their roster returning. They were hosting the Memorial Cup, meaning an automatic bid and home-ice advantage. And they were able to bolster their roster with skill and experience through in-season trades, both conventional and controversial.
However, Medicine Hat keeps popping up to spoil Vancouver’s fun.
It wasn’t enough that the Tigers forced the Giants to come into the Memorial Cup through the back door, snatching away the WHL championship in double overtime of Game 7 of the championship series. Now they’ve gone and forced Vancouver to slog through another round if the Giants want to hoist the cup in front of their hometown fans.
Wednesday’s result gave both Medicine Hat and Vancouver 2-1 records in round-robin play to put them atop the standings. By virtue of the head-to-head result, the Tigers earned the top seed and advanced directly to Sunday’s championship game.
Vancouver would have earned the bye into the championship game with a victory. Instead, the Giants will have to take on the winner of today’s tiebreaker game between Ontario League champion Plymouth and Quebec Major Junior Hockey League champion Lewiston in Friday’s semifinal.
Those Tigers just keep spoiling the party. It seems no matter how much bunting Vancouver puts up, Medicine Hat keeps ripping it back down.
Adding insult to injury, it was none other than Derek Dorsett, public enemy No. 1 as far as Vancouver is concerned, who came up with the breakthrough goal.
“It’s awesome,” Dorsett said. “Any time you can score a goal like today, especially when you get the game-winning goal, it’s a great feeling. the whole team sold out, I couldn’t have done it without them.”
Dorsett, who drew Vancouver’s ire with his antics during the championship series, scored the game’s lone goal on the power play at 17:26 of the second period, and Matt Keetley made 29 saves for the shutout in goal for the Tigers.
Tyson Sexsmith made 20 saves in goal for Vancouver, which turned in an uninspired effort considering what was on the line.
“Anybody who’s watched us knows that’s not our game,” Vancouver captain Brett Festerling said. “It was us, we beat ourselves.”
The first period was full of chances, but no goals. Dorsett had his hands in the air in celebration after a wraparound attempt, but the puck never crossed the goal line.
The game slowed down in the second period. For the first 17 minutes there wasn’t much of note other than Vancouver’s 52-second five-on-three power play. The Tigers did well killing it off, Keetley only needing to make one good save off a Cody Franson blast from the point through traffic.
Then the Tigers found the breakthrough on a power play of their own at 17:26. Kris Russell’s shot from the point was saved by Sexsmith. However, Dorsett grabbed the rebound in front, pulled the puck around Sexsmith and scored to make it 1-0.
The Giants thought they’d tied it moments later as the horn went off when Keetley made an awkward lunge at Brent Regner’s errant pass that ended up on goal, but the light never went on and the goal was waived off.
The Tigers didn’t even make the pretense of trying to pad their lead in the third period, going with the program of clearing the puck, dumping it into the Vancouver zone and going for a line change. The formula worked as the Giants never got a good scoring chance in the third period.