SAINT JOHN – So close.
It looked as though the Saint John Sea Dogs and Moncton Wildcats were destined for overtime and the Port City squad would, at the very least, pick up a valuable point in the playoff race. But with 1:35 left in regulation, Garrett Johnston scored to give the Wildcats a 5-4 lead and they would hang on to win the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League match at Harbour Station.
Stephen Seegar had a pair of goals for Moncton while singles came from Johnston, Vladimir Tkachev, and Josh Pugsley. Alex Dubeau made 23 saves in the win. Ivan Barbashev did not play in this game.
The Sea Dogs had a pair of goals from Matthew Highmore and singles from Spencer Smallman and Oliver Cooper. Jurij Repe had an eventful game, putting up three assists and having a ‘Cats goal go in off his stick. Sebastien Auger made 30 saves in the loss.
Played in front of the most energetic weekday crowd of the season, this was a an entertaining hockey game which went back-and-forth. Saint John didn’t panic when they got down, coming back from a 4-2 deficit in the third and then nearly tying the game again in the final minute.
The good news is that Shawinigan and Sherbrooke both lost in regulation time so nothing changes in the standings. The Sea Dogs remain one-point back of the Cataractes for the league’s final playoff spot with five games to go.
The Sea Dogs opened the scoring at 9:41. A Jurij Repe point shot was stopped by Alex Dubeau but Oliver Cooper was in perfect position in front to sweep the rebound in and make it 1-0 Saint John.
A few minutes later, Cooper fed Nathan Noel who was streaking to the net but chipped the puck up high and into Dubeau.
The Sea Dogs went to the power play at 12:32 but couldn’t get much going.
Not long after, Mackenzie Brown fed a wide open Samuel Dove-McFalls but the puck rolled off his stick. But then came the Wildcats the other way. William Bower was in the slot and fired a backhand pass towards the side of the net where Josh Pugsley put the puck in to tie it at 1-1 at 16:01.
Moncton then went to the power play at 17:34. On the man advantage, Stephen Seegar put in a rebound past Sebastien Auger to make it 2-1 Wildcats.
Kelly Bent and Dillon Donnelly dropped the gloves for a spirited tilt at 19:56.
Shots in the first were 12-12.
Saint John went to the power play at 1:42. On that man advantage, a Repe shot was stopped by Dubeau but he allowed a big rebound. Matthew Highmore was there to put it in and make it a 2-2 game at 2:10.
A few minutes later, Christophe Lalonde had a breakaway but was denied by Auger. Lalonde picked up a tripping penalty on the same play at 5:39 but Saint John’s power play was cut short when Repe went to the box for holding at 6:05.
Later on, Bent tipped a shot on net but was nicely stopped by Dubeau.
Jason Cameron went to the box at 11:32 following some rough stuff, sending the Cats to another power play. They had some decent pressure applied in Saint John zone but not many quality shots. Moncton would have quite a bit of offensive zone time during the remainder of the period but could not beat Auger. Shots in the second stanza were 17-9 in favour of the ‘Cats.
Moncton took a 3-2 lead at 5:29. Vladimir Tkachev split the Saint John defense at the blue line and went in alone. He beat Auger with a nice deke to give the Wildcats the lead.
The ‘Cats took a two-goal lead at 7:57. Seegar was along the boards and tried to send the puck cross ice through the crease. But it hit Repe’s stick in front and went past Auger to make it 4-2.
The Sea Dogs got back into the game after declining a fighting invitation. At 11:20, a shot was blocked and Smallman picked up the loose puck. He skated around the scramble and found the empty net to make it 4-3.
Then at 15:27 on a delayed penalty, a Thomas Chabot shot was tipped by Highmore and past Dubeau to tie thinks up at 4-4.
The building’s atmosphere was kept alive when Sheehan Kirkwood produced a big open ice hit a few minutes later.
But the Wildcats disappointed the Station faithful with a goal at 18:25 to make it 5-4. Garrett Johnston fired a hard shot past Auger from the dot to put the ‘Cats in front.
With Auger pulled, Saint John created a couple of great chances to tie the game but just couldn’t quite do it.
Shots in the third were 7-6 Moncton and 35-27 ‘Cats overall.
Both teams went 1-for-3 on the power play.
NEXT GAME: The Sea Dogs play their final home game of the regular season on Saturday night against the Halifax Mooseheads.
Photo: Marc Henwood/Station Nation
Photo: Marc Henwood/Station Nation