VANCOUVER, British Columbia – Stefano Giliati had the game on his stick Sunday.

With the Lewiston Maineiacs clinging to a one-goal lead in the third period, Giliati had the chance to slap the puck out of the zone and out of harm’s way.

Instead, the 19-year-old forward tried a touch-pass to himself along the right-wing boards in his defensive zone. Brendan Mikkelson picked it off and set up the Vancouver Giants’ first goal, a Kenndal McArdle strike.

Less than seven minutes later, Boston Bruins’ prospect Wacey Rabbit fired a long rebound past Lewiston goalie Jonathan Bernier to complete the comeback and lift the host Giants to a 2-1 victory over the Maineiacs in front of 13,734 towel-waving fans at Pacific Coliseum.

“(Giliati) had the puck, all he had to do was clear it,” Maineiacs’ coach Clem Jodoin said. “He went fancy with it, and we gave up the goal. We’ll learn from that mistake and move on.”

The Vancouver comeback sent Lewiston to just its second loss in 29 games, dating back to February. The Maineiacs’ last loss was in overtime against Halifax in Game 4 of the second round of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League playoffs.

The Giants, the Western Hockey League runners-up and hosts of the 2007 Memorial Cup tournament, are now 2-0 in round-robin play and have assured themselves of a semifinal berth or better in the elimination round.

“We just can’t get ahead of ourselves,” Vancouver coach Don Hay said. “We have to stay in the moment, enjoy the two wins for a couple hours, then move ahead.”

Jonathan Bernier earned the game’s first star for the second day in a row after stopping 31 of 33 shots in the loss. Bernier, the Los Angeles Kings’ first-round draft choice (11th overall) in 2006, has stopped 61 of 64 shots in two games, a save percentage of .953.

“He’s been outstanding the whole tournament,” Maineiacs’ forward Simon Courcelles said. “He’s the player that’s given us a chance to be in this position still.”

On the other end, 17-year-old Tyson Sexsmith held his own, especially down the stretch. He finished with 19 saves.

The Giants dominated the game physically from the outset. Perhaps on adrenaline, the Maineiacs kept pace with the hitting early, but Vancouver imposed its will from the second period on.

“We need rest now, mentally and physically,” Jodoin said. “This was a hard, physical team. They were hitting everything that moved the whole time.”

David Perron scored his first goal of the Memorial Cup at 5:48 of the first period on a nice tip-in that beat Sexsmith five-hole after Pierre-Luc Faubert outworked Milan Lucic in the right corner.

The teams battled to a scoreless second frame, setting the stage of the Giants’ third-period heroics.

McArdle got things going with his second in as many games after the Giliati giveaway. The first shot from Mikkelson ricocheted to Mario Bliznak. His shot hit Bernier in the right pad and landed on McArdle’s stick.

“The puck went right to him,” Bernier said. “Sometimes you get luck bounces like that.”

That goal, at 8:52 of the first frame, evened the score.

Rabbit gave the Giants the lead at 15:47 when he, too, spotted a rebound at the left side of the net and beat Bernier after the goaltender stopped Michal Repik’s shot from the right circle.

Vancouver doesn’t play again until Wednesday. Lewiston faces the Plymouth Whalers at 8 p.m. Tuesday night. Tonight, the Whalers take on the Medicine Hat Tigers in a battle of teams that are 0-1 in the round robin.


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