2007 – Vancouver Giants

Don Hay, the winningest coach in WHL history, said the 2007 WHL final “was as good a series as I’ve been in.”

“This series,” he said, “was as intense as any series we’ve been in. In fact, it’s the hardest series that I remember being in.”

Hay was the head coach of the Vancouver Giants at the time, and they had just dropped a 4-3 double-overtime Game 7 decision to the Willie Desjardins-coached Tigers in Medicine Hat.

“I think we’re a better hockey team at the end of this series,” Hay continued, “even though we didn’t get the result we wanted. How hard we had to work and compete is going to make every player — and is going to make our team — better.”

The Giants were in the 2007 Memorial Cup as the host team; the Tigers were in as, at worst, the WHL runner-up. Still, neither team mailed it in for the WHL final. They would meet twice more in Vancouver.

Also playing at the Pacific Coliseum were the Lewiston Maineiacs, under Clement Jodoin, and the Mike Vellucci-coached Plymouth Whalers, the first time the QMJHL and OHL champions both were based in the U.S.

This also was the first tournament officiated under the two-referee system.

It opened on May 18 with Kenndal McArdle’s goal at 5:06 of overtime giving the Giants a 4-3 victory over Plymouth.

On May 19, goaltender Jonathan Bernier stopped 30 shots as Lewiston posted its 27th victory in 28 games, 3-1 over  Medicine Hat.

One night later, Wacey Rabbit’s goal at 15:47 of the third period gave Vancouver a 2-1 victory over Lewiston.

Medicine Hat then got two goals from Tyler Ennis in beating Plymouth, 4-1, and the Whalers beat the Maineiacs, 2-1, on Andrew Fournier’s goal, at 4:19 of OT.

The Tigers closed out the round-robin on May 23, beating the Giants, 1-0, as Derek Dorsett scored at 17:26 of the second period and goaltender Matt Keetley made 29 saves.

The next day, Plymouth bounced Lewiston, 5-1, in a tiebreaker, but the Whalers followed with an 8-1 semifinal loss to Vancouver, which got two goals from each of James Wright and J.D. Watt.

That set up a final between Vancouver and Medicine Hat, the second all-WHL final in history, after 1989 when the Swift Current Broncos beat the host Saskatoon Blades.

On May 27, Michal Repik broke a 1-1 tie at 15:05 of the third period as the Giants won, 3-1, before 16,281 fans.

Vancouver forward Milan Lucic, who totalled two goals and five assists, was named MVP.

“This is the greatest feeling ever,” Lucic said. “Winning the trophy in front of the home crowd, you couldn’t ask for anything better.”

The tournament set attendance records for highest total (121,461 for nine games) and highest average (13,496). The previous record (84,686) was set in Quebec City in 2003.

2007 Vancouver Giants:

Mario BliznakJonathon BlumLance BoumaCraig Cunningham, Mitch Czibere, Brett FesterlingCody Franson, Garet Hunt, Evander Kane, Tim Kraus, Neil Manning, Brendan MikkelsonMilan LucicSpencer MachacekKenndal McArdle, Wacey Rabbit, Blaine Neufeld, Brent RegnerMichal Repik, Tyson Sexsmith, A.J. Thelen, Nolan Toigo, J.D. Watt, James Wright, Mike Wuchterl, Scott Bonner (general manager), Don Hay (coach).

NHL:  Lucic won the Stanley Cup in 2011 as a member of the Boston Bruins.  He was chosen as a member of the NHL All-Star Youngstars Game in both 2008 and 2009.  Hay was head coach of the Phoenix Coyotes during the 1996-97 season and head coach of the Calgary Flames during the 2000-2001 season.