Sunday, April 23, 2017

Playoff feel finally arrives at Harbour Station

First of all, what a game last night.

The Saint John Sea Dogs' playoff run has no doubt lacked some drama and excitement. But last night's match, which saw the Sea Dogs' two-goal lead erased and the Chicoutimi Sagueneens eventually win in double overtime, certainly makes up for a lot of the blowouts the earlier rounds featured.

The Sagueneens looked like the team that upset the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies in the second round last night. This series could get even more interesting as it shifts to the big Chicoutimi ice this week.

Saint John got off to a solid start in Game 2. Even though shots were just 10-9 in favour of the Sea Dogs in the first period, Saint John was definitely the better team and looked like they might cruise to another win.

But then the second period started.

Chicoutimi came out flying in the second. Saint John didn't record a shot on goal until the midway point of the period, and it was the first time this post-season the Sea Dogs have really been pushed by the opposition for any significant amount of time. It's probably been overstated by now, but this is probably a good thing overall. If Saint John is going to win the league, they'll be pushed at some point. They might as well figure out how to deal with it now.

The Sea Dogs rebounded in the second half of the middle stanza, and the rest of the game was back-and-forth. It was fantastic. Both goaltenders, Julia Billia and Callum Booth, were phenomenal, each facing over 50 shots.

RECAP: Sea Dogs lose 3-2 (2OT)

FINAL: Chicoutimi 3, Saint John 2 (2OT)
Kevin Chambers | SN Staff

SAINT JOHN – Nicolas Roy scored on a power play at 5:12 of double overtime to give the Chicoutimi Sagueneens a 3-2 win over the Saint John Sea Dogs on Saturday night at Harbour Station.

Chicoutimi scored three unanswered goals - the other two by the non-suspended Joey Ratelle - en route to handing the Sea Dogs their first loss of the 2017 playoffs. The win evens the semifinal series at 1-1.

Julia Billia had a strong night in the Chicoutimi net, making 52 saves.

Goal scorers for the Sea Dogs were Julien Gauthier and Matthew Highmore. Callum Booth was outstanding, stopping 51 of the 54 shots sent his way.

To the notes…

  • The Sea Dogs got on the board first at 12:43 of the first period when Gauthier finished off a pretty two-on-one play with Spencer Smallman.
  • Sea Dogs fans didn’t have to wait long for the next goal as Highmore buried a rebound past Billia just 33 seconds later to make it 2-0.
  • The Sags came out hard to start the second period and scored a power play marker at 13:32 when Ratelle tapped home a loose puck
  • Ratelle would even things at 2-2 with another power play marker. The puck went off the skate of Ratelle and by Booth at 15:39 of the third.
  • The game would go all the way to double overtime. A penalty to Simon Bourque at 3:13 for delay of game led to another Chicoutimi power play goal, this time off the stick of Roy. The goal came with just one second remaining in the Bourque penalty.
  • Prior to the game, it was announced by the league that Vincent Tremblay-Lapalme had been suspended one game for his hit on Simon Bourque. In a bit of a surprise, the league did not suspend Ratelle for his hit to the head of Mathieu Joseph.
  • Chicoutimi ended the game 3/5 on the power play. Saint John was not given a single man advantage in 85:12 of game time.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Playoffs Game Day: Game 2 vs Sagueneens

The Saint John Sea Dogs will look to take a 2-0 series lead in their QMJHL semifinal against the Chicoutimi Sagueneens tonight. Game time is 7 p.m. at Harbour Station.

TV/Radio/Webcast: Rogers TV/96.1 NewSong FM/QMJHL Live

Series status: The Sea Dogs lead the best-of-seven President Cup semifinal series 1-0.

Last game: Saint John won Game 1 by a score of 4-1 last night. Simon Bourque, Cole Reginato, Mathieu Joseph and Julien Gauthier all scored for Saint John. Nicolas Roy scored for Chicoutimi. Callum Booth made 21 saves in the win. Julio Billia made 35 stops in the loss.

2016-17 regular season head-to-head: The Sea Dogs went 2-0-0-0 against the Sagueneens in the regular season while Chicoutimi went 0-2-0-0 against Saint John.

Ex-Sea Dogs on the Sagueneens: None.

Random stat: After going goalless in four straight games, Julien Gauthier now has goals in each of his past four contests.

RECAP: Sea Dogs win 4-1

FINAL: Chicoutimi 1, Saint John 4
Lorne Webster | SN Staff

SAINT JOHN – The Saint John Sea Dogs kicked off the QMJHL semifinals with a convincing 4-1 victory over the Chicoutimi Sagueneens Friday evening at Harbour Station.

After blowing off a bit of rust in a scoreless first period, the Sea Dogs broke the game open with a balanced, somewhat dominant, attack in the second period on their way claiming a 1-0 series lead.

Simon Bourque, Cole Reginato, Mathieu Joseph and Julien Gauthier all scored for Saint John. Callum Booth recorded 21 saves for the Sea Dogs.

Nicolas Roy replied for Chicoutimi, while Julio Billia was called upon to stop 35 of 39 shots sent his way.

NOTES
  • The Sea Dogs penalty kill was outstanding in the first period as they only allowed one shot on goal during three Chicoutimi extra man opportunities.
  • Sea Dogs players and fans collectively held their breath late in the first period after Roy caught Thomas Chabot with a high hit - which the officials felt didn't warrant a penalty.
  • Saint John nearly scored in the final seconds of the opening frame but the buzzer clearly sounded - and the green light was lit - before Chabot put the puck past Billia.
  • Saint John would open the scoring at 3:44 of the second, when Bailey Webster's "Hail Mary pass" from behind his own goal line was caught by Bourque - just a couple seconds after he left the penalty box - and the Sea Dogs defenceman broke in all alone and snapped a shot over Billia's glove.
  • At 6:37 of the second, Nathan Noel carried the puck through the high slot and the rebound of his heavy wrist shot was banged in by Reginato. The goal was initially waved off for apparent goaltender interference. However, upon review, it was determined that it was Kelly Klima - who missed a check on Reginato - who bumped into Billia.
  • Less than two minutes after Reginato's goal, Joseph walked the line, completed a nice give-and-go with Matthew Highmore and sent a laser over Billia's blocker into the top mesh to stake the hosts to a 3-0 lead.
  • Just past the halfway point of the middle frame, Joey Ratelle attempted to decapitate Joseph with a wicked blindside head shot. Ratelle was given a major and game misconduct for his actions. A stiff suspension should be in order as well.
  • Roy gave the Sagueneens a lift at 16:46 when his nifty backhand from the face-off circle beat Booth.
  • Chicoutimi pushed hard after Roy's goal. But with 16.7 seconds left in the second period, Gauthier - Roy's Team Canada teammate - unleashed a seeing eye wrist shot from near the blue line which beat a surprised Billia to make the score 4-1.
  • Besides another major and game misconduct to Chicoutimi - namely a vicious hit from behind by Vincent Tremblay-Lapalme against Bourque early in the period - and a clear TKO by Noel over Kelly Klima, cooler heads pretty much prevailed in a chippy, scoreless third period. (Ed. Note: Kyle Ward also delivered what seemed to be a pretty bad hit from behind in the period.)
  • Chicoutimi coach Yanick Jean likely deserves some credit for constantly berating the officials into seemingly getting some calls in his favour. 
  • The Sagueneens sported an old school bleached playoff hair look - reminiscent of the 2012 Saint John - Chicoutimi semifinal series.
  • Elsewhere in the QMJHL - the Charlottetown Islanders earned a 3-0 win over Blainville-Boisbriand to jump into an early lead in the other semifinal.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Playoffs Game Day: Game 1 vs Sagueneens

The Saint John Sea Dogs begin semifinal play tonight at Harbour Station. Game time for Game 1 against the Chicoutimi Sagueneens is 7 p.m.

TV/Radio/Webcast: Rogers TV/96.1 NewSong FM/QMJHL Live

Series status: This is the first game of the best-of-seven President Cup semifinal series.

Last games: The Sea Dogs are coming off a 7-1 win in Val-d'Or on Wednesday, April 12. Spencer Smallman had a hat trick for Saint John, Joe Veleno had two goals and singles came from Simon Bourque and Julien Gauthier. Callum Booth made 18 saves in the win. The Sagueneens are coming off a 4-3 overtime win in Rouyn-Noranda on Tuesday. Kelly Klima and Olivier Galipeau each scored twice in that game. Julio Billia made 29 saves in the win.

2016-17 regular season head-to-head: The Sea Dogs went 2-0-0-0 against the Sagueneens in the regular season while Chicoutimi went 0-2-0-0 against Saint John.

Ex-Sea Dogs on the Sagueneens: None.

Random stat: The Sea Dogs went 10-0 in the 2012 playoffs before losing their first match - which was Game 3 of the semifinals against none other than Chicoutimi. Saint John has cruised through the first two rounds this year and is currently 8-0.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Five things to watch for in the semis

The semifinals are upon us.

Just like in 2012, the 8-0, top-seeded Saint John Sea Dogs will take on the battled-tested underdog Chicoutimi Sagueneens in the President Cup semifinals. The series begins Friday night at Harbour Station.

Here are five things to watch for in the series.

Rested vs tested
A classic playoff scenario is lined up for this series: the Sea Dogs, coming off a sweep of the Val-d'Or Foreurs and who have had over a week off, will face the Sagueneens, who are coming off a seven-game series upset over Rouyn-Noranda that just ended on Tuesday night. No doubt Chicoutimi will be ready for the top-seeded Dogs, but endurance will be key for them, especially in these first two games.

Boost from the backend
If there ends up being plenty of scoring from the backend in this series, it should come as no surprise. These two teams feature four of the post-season's top six scoring defencemen: Thomas Chabot (three goals and 10 assists), Olivier Galipeau (four goals and seven assists), Simon Bourque (two goals and seven assists) and Frederic Allard (two goals and seven assists). Galipeau scored the game-tying and game-winning goals on Tuesday in Rouyn-Noranda.

Third period fun
You should never leave games early, but you certainly shouldn't do so in this series. Saint John has scored 17 of their 42 goals in these playoffs in third periods. Chicoutimi, meanwhile, has scored 15 of their 38 in thirds.