(BCSB) -- Michal Repik had three helpers including an assist on the game winning goal as the Vancouver Giants disposed the Seattle Thunderbirds 5-1 on Friday to win the best-of-seven series four games to one.
The defending WHL Champs are headed back to the Western Conference Finals after soundly beating their I-5 rivals before 6,681 fans at the Pacific Coliseum.
Both teams started the game aggressively as the Giants were trying to knock off the T-Birds and avoid another trip to the Emerald City, while the Thunderbirds were fighting to play just one more day.
The hitting started early and carried on throughout the game. At the 9:37 mark of the first Giants forward J.D. Watt as assessed a five minute major and a game misconduct for elbowing after a severe blow to the head of a Seattle player behind the Thunderbird net.
While short-handed it was the Vancouver Giants who struck first blood as Kendall McArdle picked up his sixth goal of the playoffs on a nifty, breakaway deke at 11:31 of the first period.
McArdle had picked off a pass at the Giants blue line before gallivanting down the ice towards the
Thunderbirds Derek Yeomans.
But, the quick-footed T-Bird defenseman Lindsay Nielsen was able to catch McArdle just as he went to deke.
While being hooked from behind McArdle was able to chip the puck over the right shoulder of Derek
Yeomans and into the back of the net.
Still short-handed and just one minute later the Giants Spencer Machacek was called for goaltender interference after a glorious scoring opportunity putting his team down two men.
On the ensuing five-on-three power play the Thunderbirds countered with their lone goal of the evening at 13:15. Seattle's Thomas Hickey had a seeing-eye slap shot from the point go by Giants goalie Tyson Sexsmith on the glove hand side. Assists on the goal went to Brett Robertson and Greg Scott.
Vancouver looked to go up 2-1 with under five minutes to go when Repik was fed a great pass from the corner by Wacey Rabbit. Yeomans went down in the butterfly position going post-to-post to stymie Repik who was looking for his sixth goal of the playoffs.
The Giants came out of the intermission flying start the second period scoring two goals 26 seconds apart with the first coming at 4:02.
Milan Lucic was able to cash in on a beautiful tic-tac-toe play that started with a pass from Tim
Kraus to Michal Repik. Repik, then alertly spotted Lucic racing in from the high slot to towards the net. Lucic received the pass and made no mistake burying the puck blocker side past Yeomans.
At 4:28 Repik who stayed on the ice after the last goal spotted Mario Bliznak in the slot, and again
Repik made a quick saucer pass on to the tape of Bliznak who beat Yeomans high blocker side putting the Giants up 3-1.
Yeomans was busier of the two goalies in the second frame as he faced 16 shots. When tested
few and far between Sexsmith was equal to the task stopping all four shots thrown in his direction.
Vancouver continued their hard hitting ways in the second period out, but were able to harness the high hits they made in the first, thus allowing them to stay out of the penalty box and pressure the Thunderbirds.
In the third period the Giants continued to pour on the pressure hemming the Thunderbirds inside their own blue line shift-after-shift.
Vancouver added to its two-goal lead at 8:21 of the third period. Machacek scored a nifty-goal after eluding the check of Bretton Stamler in front of Yeomans.
Bliznak who was patrolling the half side boards near the top of the left face-off circle spotted Mahacek in front of the T-Bird net. Mahacek received the quick pass and fired the puck past Yeomans.
The Giants would add one more goal with 4:40 remaining in the game when captain Cody Franson slap shot from the right point beat Yeomans low blocker side.
Overall, Seattle could not match the speed and intensity the Giants threw at them throughout the course of this series.
Giants head coach Don Hay knew his team would have success heading into this series if they worked through adversity.
"I thought it (tonight) was a solid performance," said Hay. "We battled through some adversity after losing Watt and taking some penalties. We did a good job not really losing our focus and sticking with it (game plan)."
Vancouver held Seattle's top line of Aaron Gagnon, Jan Eberle and Bud Holloway to a combined four points in the series.
On the other side, Vancouver's top line was the exact opposite. The line of Machacek, McArdle and Bliznak dominated the Thunderbirds combining for nine goals and 10 assists in the five games.
McArdle attributes his line's success to hard work and good communication.
"Our line going into the playoffs really started to gel, "said McArdle sporting the team hard hat. "We really knew we could be a contributing line."
"We really started to find our groove against Chilliwack, we always chatted and thought of ways we could improve, we always went out with the focus of making sure we shut down the other teams top line."
Sexsmith stopped 12 of the 13 shots he faced, while Yeomans had 33 saves in the loss.
The Giants and the Thunderbirds both went 1-for-4 on the power play.
And so comes the end to first ever playoff meeting between these two clubs. Vancouver now advances to the Western Conference Final which should start next Friday or Saturday when their opponent will be known.
The Giants are set to face the winner of the other Western Conference Semi Final between Prince George and Everett. Their series is currently tied at two games each.