SHAWINIGAN, Que. – The Saint John Sea Dogs opened up the 2012 MasterCard Memorial Cup in ugly fashion on Saturday night at Centre Bionest in Shawinigan.
The Sea Dogs were undisciplined and unorganized in a 5-3 loss to the Ontario Hockey League champion London Knights. The defending Memorial Cup champions scored first but would never lead again in the contest as the Knights shut down the Sea Dogs’ offense for the most part.
Saint John had a difficult time generating any scoring chances while at even strength. Two of their goals came while shorthanded and the other was on the power play. London deserves a lot of credit for the way they played against the Dogs. But at the same time, this was a poor showing by Saint John, a team that rolled through the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League playoffs and performed well on the national stage last May.
The Sea Dogs were undisciplined in their Memorial Cup opener, giving London eight power play opportunities. Some of the calls were questionable but others were just unnecessary penalties to take. Fortunately, the Knights’ power play was brutal for the most part.
Also, the ice at Centre Bionest sucked and both teams had their problems. According to Sportsnet, the dressing rooms are very hot. Not sure what’s going on here. Shawinigan has had a year to prepare for this event and they didn’t expect there to be warm weather?
The Sea Dogs had goals from Charles Roussel, Jonathan Huberdeau, and Ryan Tesink. Roussel, Nathan Beaulieu, and Charlie Coyle all added assists. Saint John’s top six had relatively quiet game. Goaltender Mathieu Corbeil had a strong night in goal once again and made 19 saves.
London had a pair of goals from Vladislav Namestnikov and singles from Max Domi, Seth Griffith, and Austin Watson. Michael Houser was solid in net – with the exception of allowing Huberdeau’s bizarre goal – and made 22 saves for the win.
The Sea Dogs have a day off tomorrow to prepare for Monday’s game against Edmonton. This loss isn’t the end of the world. They can still win this whole thing. But losing their first game doesn’t make things easy. They’ll need to be much better on Monday night.
Jonathan Huberdeau headed to the box just 16 seconds for elbowing. While shorthanded, Charles Roussel blasted a shot from inside the circle that beat Michael Houser to make it 1-0 Saint John at 1:37.
The Knights couldn’t get anything going while on the power play. They headed back to the man advantage at 5:33 but once again couldn’t do anything.
The Knights had yet another power play at 10:25 but yet again couldn’t do anything.
The Knights tied it up at 14:11. Mathieu Corbeil let out a rebound and Max Domi grabbed it and beat the Saint John goaltender to make it a 1-1 affair.
Then at 15:35, Vladislav Namestnikov tipped the puck high glove side on Corbeil to give London a 2-1 lead.
Saint John headed to the power play at 19:32. Just before the period ended, Nathan Beaulieu went end-to-end but couldn’t beat Houser.
Shots were 9-7 Saint John in the first.
The Dogs couldn’t get much going on the power play that carried over into the second so the Knights remained in the lead.
During some four-on-four early in the frame, Tomas Jurco fired a shot from the top of the circle that was easily stopped by Houser with the pads. A little later on, Greg McKegg was robbed in front by the pad of Corbeil.
At 9:03, Ryan Rupert headed to the box to give Saint John a power play. Jurco was stopped in front and then Houser made a nice save on Huberdeau who snuck into the slot to get a shot off.
Back at even strength at 12:41, London took a 3-1 lead. Griffith had an open net in front and scored to give the Knights a big two-goal advantage.
At 14:05, Maxime Villemaire headed to the box. The Knights power play was decent compared to some they had earlier in the game but still could not get a whole lot going.
Danick Gauthier headed to the box at 17:33 after he put a light slash on Houser. While shorthanded, the Dogs made it a 3-2 game. At 17:57, Huberdeau wound up and fired a shot from the blue line that took a strange bounce and beat Houser five-hole to make it a one-goal match heading to intermission.
Shots were 11-9 London in the frame.
Saint John had back-to-back power plays early in the third but could not connect on either of them. Then Shawinigan headed to an abbreviated power play at 7:43 but while shorthanded, Huberdeau spun and fired a shot that was stopped by Houser.
Late in that power play, McKegg was robbed by Corbeil. Then moments later at even strength, Jared Knight was robbed by Corbeil’s pad as well.
London made it a 4-2 game at 10:49 as Ryan Rupert, parked behind the net, made a perfect pass to a wide open Austin Watson in front. He made no mistake to give London a two-goal lead.
The Sea Dogs headed to the power play at 11:32. They made it a 4-3 game at 12:01 as Ryan Tesink tipped a shot in to give the Dogs some life.
But any chance of a Saint John comeback ended late in the third as Huberdeau picked up two roughing penalties and Gerard Gallant earned a bench minor at 17:56, giving the Knights a five-on-three power play to end the game.
At 19:07, Namestnikov scored his second of the game to make it a 5-3 final.
Shots were 7-6 Saint John in the third.
The Sea Dogs went 1-for-5 on the power play while London went 1-for-8.
NOTES: See Sea Dogs Postscript tomorrow on SN.
NEXT GAME: The Sea Dogs face the Edmonton Oil Kings on Monday night.