VANCOUVER - Casey Pierro-Zabotel scored his first WHL hat-trick as the Vancouver Giants defeated the Medicine Hat Tigers 6-3 on Friday night.
It was the first time the clubs met in Vancouver since last spring's Memorial Cup final, when the Giants prevailed after the Tigers had defeated them in seven games to take the WHL crown.
With Friday's win, coach Don Hay's crew avenged a loss in Medicine Hat last month.
Pierro-Zabotel recorded his second, third and fourth goals in his ninth WHL game as the Giants improved to 21-7-1-3 before a thoroughly-entertained crowd of 9,871 at the Pacific Coliseum. The 19-year-old former tier II junior star, only joined the Giants in November.
He had to forego a scholarship offer from Michigan Tech, after three-plus seasons with the Merritt Centennials of the B.C. Hockey League, because he didn't meet the university's academic requirements.
Mike Piluso, James Wright and Mitch Czibere also scored for Vancouver who outshot the Tigers 43-22 while going one-for-seven on the power play. Jordan Hickmott, Wacey Hamilton and Thomas Frazee also tallied for the Tigers (16-12-3-1), who were held scoreless on eight man-advantage opportunities.
Tempers flared in the pre-game warmup as players from both teams exchanged verbal barbs while skating near centre ice. Linesmen Chris de Haan and Mike Basford skated between Vancouver's Garet Hunt and Medicine Hat's Mark Isherwood when they appeared ready to tussle.
The confrontation set the stage for several skirmishes that led to penalties - but no fights - during the game.
Hickmott gave Medicine Hat a 1-0 lead at the three-minute mark as he broke in alone and beat Giants goaltender Tyson Sexsmith following a quick turnover in the neutral zone. It was only the Tigers' second shot of the game.
Pierro-Zabotel, tied the score at 4:24 as he put a wrist shot through Tigers defenceman Matthew Konan and starting goaltender Tomas Vosvrda. Piluso gave Vancouver a 2-1 advantage at 10:11 on an almost identical play. This time, the shot went through Medicine Hat defenceman Jordan Bendfeld and behind Vosvrda.
Six minutes later, Hamilton forged a 2-2 deadlock as he deflected in a shot by Tyler Ennis.
Pierro-Zabotel put the Giants ahead 3-2 at 7:36 of the second period as he lifted home a sharp-angled shot during a scramble after Vosvrda had foiled Evander Kane and Nunn on back-to-back shots. The Vancouver centre completed his hat-trick as he netted the winning goal, giving Vancouver a 4-2 lead, during a five-on-three power play at 16:00 of the middle frame.
He helped pick up the offensive slack as the Giants played without scorer Michal Repik, who is out indefinitely with a severe concussion.
Ryan Holfeld took over in the Medicine Hat goal after Wright's goal at 6:28 of the third gave Vancouver a 5-2 advantage and erased any doubt about the outcome.