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Vancouver Giants open Memorial Cup with 4-3 OT win over Plymouth

NHL.com @NHL

(CP) - Kenndal McArdle scored the overtime winner for the Vancouver Giants in a 4-3 win over the Plymouth Whalers to open the Memorial Cup on Friday.

J.D. Watt threaded a pass from the boards to an all-alone McArdle and the Florida Panthers prospect beat Plymouth goaltender Michal Neuvirth at 5:06 of extra time.

Milan Lucic scored a pair of goals for the host team and Michal Repik assisted on both of them. Spencer Machacek also scored in front of 13,428 at the 16,000-seat Pacific Coliseum, former home of the NHL's Vancouver Canucks.

Attendance was announced as a Memorial Cup record for a round-robin game.

James Neal scored twice and defenceman Ryan McInnis replied for the Ontario Hockey League champion Whalers. Tom Sestito had two assists.

Giants goaltender Tyson Sexsmith picked up the win, stopping 30 of 33 shots, while Neuvirth turned away 33 of 37 in the loss.

The Western Hockey League's Medicine Hat Tigers and the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League's Lewiston Maineiacs square off Saturday (Rogers Sportsnet, 4 p.m. ET).

The team with the best round-robin record gets a bye to the final May 27. The second-and third-place teams meet in the semifinal May 25 with the winner advancing to the championship game. A tiebreaker game will be played in the event of a tie for third.

The Giants' confidence on home ice was evident in the way they threw their bodies and the puck around in the opening minutes of the game.

The Whalers looked out of sync in the first period, but gained confidence in the second by coming from behind to tie the game three times with power-play goals on three opportunities.

A scoreless third sent the tournament-opener into overtime. It was the second straight overtime game for both teams.

The Giants fell 3-2 in double overtime Monday to Medicine Hat in Game 7 of the WHL championship series, while the Whalers beat Sudbury 3-2 in an extra period of Sunday's Game 6 in the OHL final series.

With Whalers teammate Jared Boll providing the screen, McGinnis's shot from the blue-line sailed over Sexsmith's shoulder at 16:36 of the second period.

Neal scored his second of the game at 10:25 driving hard to the net and harrying Sexsmith. The goal was reviewed by officials and allowed to stand.

Plymouth had trouble containing the speedy Repik, whose work deep in the Whalers' zone and along the boards twice gave Lucic an opening in the slot to beat Neuvirth in the second period.

Repik fed Lucic from behind the net for the Boston Bruins draft pick's second goal of the game at 13:14. Repik rushed the puck into the offensive zone and fed Lucic from the boards at 8:17.

Neal, a Dallas Stars prospect cruised in from the boards and beat Sexsmith with a wrist shot just inside the post at 7:26.

Machacek parked himself in front of Neuvirth and re-directed Brendan Mikkelson's shot from the blue-line for a power-play goal at 5:41 of the first period to draw the support of the building, which wasn't full, but was loud.

Giants defenceman Cody Franson returned to the lineup after missing the last three games of the WHL championship series against Medicine Hat with an undisclosed injury.

His return helped the Giants limit shots on Sexsmith as Vancouver outshot Plymouth 14-8 in the opening period. The Whalers gained ground in that department, however, and the Giants held a 32-30 edge at the end of regulation.

The Giants threw several hard checks in the opening minutes starting with Kenndal McArdle hammering Brett Bellemore into the boards in the opening minute.

Vancouver's Watt, a Calgary Flames prospect, and Plymouth's Boll, property of the Columbus Blue Jackets, verbally sparred late into the first period and after Boll knocked Giants forward Tim Kraus hard into the boards, they took the opportunity to start a wrestling match.

CP Player of the Game - Giants forward Michal Repik helped increase his stock for the upcoming NHL draft. The Czech forward's speed and smarts generated two goals for linemate Milan Lucic and Repik also had a couple of good scoring chances in overtime.

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