SHAWINIGAN, Que. – What a game in Shawinigan on Saturday night.
In a playoff like game, the Saint John Sea Dogs scored with 30 seconds remaining in the third period to defeat the Shawinigan Cataractes 2-1 at a sold out Bionest Centre. With the win, Saint John is now three points ahead of Shawinigan in the race for first place in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.
This game was incredible. There were fights, there were scrums after almost every whistle, there were two controversial hits, there were great saves, and there was a dramatic late game goal that proved to be the winner. This was as intense as it gets for a regular season game in February.
The Cataractes opened the scoring and led 1-0 after one. The Dogs battled through the second and tied it at 1-1 late. In the third period, with Jonathan Racine serving a five-minute major for a high hit on Jonathan Huberdeau, it was the Sea Dogs captain who scored in the final minute to give Saint John the win.
This was a terrific road game by the Dogs. They capitalized two of their five power play opportunities. They were able to kill all five Shawinigan power plays – including a five-minute major to Jason Cameron. Mathieu Corbeil had one of his best performances of his season in goal. And when they needed the big play late, their best player stepped up and delivered.
Along with Huberdeau’s goal, Charles Roussel also scored. Nathan Beaulieu added two assists. Corbeil made 37 saves and was named first star for his efforts.
The Cataractes’ lone goal came from Maximilien Le Sieur. Gabriel Girard allowed two goals on 25 shots.
This was the third meeting of the season between these two. Saint John has won two of them. They meet once more in March in a game that will also be played at the Bionest Centre. All three games – especially the first and third – have been quite a battle. A playoff series between these two would be unreal.
Along with extending their lead in the standings, Saint John also extended their winning streak to seven games. The Dogs are now 38-13-02 on the year which is good for 78 points.
At 2:30 of the first period, Grant West and Dillon Donnelly dropped the gloves in front of the Shawinigan goal for a short fight. The tilt would setup a rather feisty opening frame with pushing and shoving after almost every stoppage in play.
The first half of the period had a great pace but very little scoring chances. Just past the halfway mark, Anton Zlobin had a good chance in the slot but Mathieu Corbeil deflected it with his glove. A few moments later, Corbeil made another save with the glove, this time robbing Brandon Gormely in close.
After the Gormley save at 11:47, Charles Roussel headed off for holding along with Maxime Villemaire and Peter Sakaris for roughing. The Cataractes couldn’t get much going on the power play though.
Shawinigan made it 1-0 at 14:17. A long pass ahead found Maximilien Le Sieur who who went in alone. He slid the puck under Corbeil to give the home team the one-goal advantage.
Some more rough stuff at 14:45 resulted in penalties. Soon after, Stephen MacAulay let a shot go from the dot that was padded away by Gabriel Girard. Then at the other end, Corbeil stopped Loik Poudrier on a two-on-one and made another solid pad save off Taylor Carnevale.
Shots in the opening period were 14-11 in favour of Shawinigan.
Early on, a rebound hit something and trickled towards the goal and just went wide of the net in a bizarre moment.
Shawinigan went back to the power play at 4:01 as Roussel headed off. Just a few moments into the penalty kill, Roussel left the box with what appeared to be a shoulder injury and was replaced by Grant West. Roussel returned later in the period.
On the power play, another defenseman left the game but this time it was a Cataracte who would be hurt. Brandon Gormley went down in front of his own net and left the contest favouring his left leg. He returned late in the period.
Back at even strength, Jurco went in on a partial break but was stopped by the blocker of Girard. Then Danick Gauthier let a one-time shot go from just inside the line but was robbed as well.
The Sea Dogs headed to the man advantage at 11:25 but couldn’t get a whole lot going. While shorthanded, Poudrier had a decent chance, tipping the puck just wide.
Shawinigan went back to the power play at 15:50 but it wouldn’t last long as Morgan Ellis headed off at 16:58. On the ensuing power play, Roussel blasted the puck past Girard to tie the game up at 1-1.
In the dying seconds of the period, Jurco had an open net on a wraparound but couldn’t sweep it towards the net enough, allowing Girard to dive and make the save.
Shots in the second stanza were 12-7 Shawinigan.
Early in the third, Saint John had a three-on-two but Jurco sent the shot high off Girard. Then Shawinigan had a chance as Michael Bournival cut across the top the crease but sent the puck into the pads of Corbeil.
At 2:51, Vincent Arseneau and Ian Saab dropped the gloves for a fight that didn't feature many punches land.
Gauthier headed off at 4:23, giving Shawinigan a power play. Jurco fed Zack Phillips on a shorthanded two-on-one but sailed the shot high. The Cats couldn’t get anything going on the man advantage.
Saint John had a power play at 5:52 but did nothing.
Then at 8:54, the chaos began. Jason Cameron smoked Kirill Kabanov and was given a five-minute major and game misconduct for his hit. Kabanov left the game. On the long power play, Yannick Veilleux came out from behind the net but had his shot stopped by Corbeil. Late in the man advantage, Bournival fired a shot off the crossbar. Saint John had an excellent penalty kill.
The Sea Dogs called a timeout shortly after their penalty kill expired to organize some stuff.
At 16:33, Jonathan Racine put a huge hit on Jonathan Huberdeau at the blue line. Huberdeau sat on the ice for a few minutes but stayed in the game. Racine was given a game misconduct and five-minute major, giving the Dogs a huge opportunity.
With 30 seconds remaining in the game, Huberdeau was at the side of net and banked the puck of Girard and in to give the Dogs a 2-1 lead. The goal would be reviewed but the call would stand, give Saint John the victory.
Shots in the third period were 12-7 Shawinigan.
Saint John went 2-for-5 on the power play while Shawinigan went 0-for-5.
NOTES: See Sea Dogs Postscript tomorrow on SN.
Photo Credit: Marc Henwood/Station Nation