FINAL: Moncton 3, Saint John 2
Lorne Webster | SN Staff
SAINT JOHN, NB - In the second half of a home-and-home set, the struggling Saint John Sea Dogs (23-13-1-5) hosted the first place Moncton Wildcats (28-11-0-2) in QMJHL action Saturday night at Harbour Station.
The Wildcats continued their mastery of Saint John with a 3-2 win. The victory was Moncton's fifth in six games against the Sea Dogs this season. The win also allowed the Wildcats to extend their lead to six points over Saint John at the top of the Maritimes Division, as well as remain one point ahead of Rimouski for first place in the QMJHL.
Former Sea Dog Noah Zilbert led Moncton's attack with two goals. Taylor Burke had the other goal for the Wildcats, while Jason Bell and Daniel Del Paggio replied for Saint John.
The Sea Dogs opened the scoring on a power play at 6:37 of the first period. With Boko Imama providing a screen, Bell took a short feed from Matt Highmore in the high slot and fired the puck over Alex Dubeau's shoulder. Less than three minutes later, Zilbert finished a nice give-and-go with Will Smith when he split the Sea Dogs' defence and beat Alex Bishop through the five hole. Then, on a power play at 11:25, the Wildcats got their first lead of the night. Seconds after Dubeau robbed Spencer Smallman, an up ice feed went to Eric Leger who carried the puck into Saint John's end and he fed a short pass to Burke who in turn one-timed a laser over Bishop's blocker. With just 45 seconds left in the first, Del Paggio accepted a nice pass from Nathan Noel on the right wing, cut to the slot and snapped the puck through Dubeau's legs to tie the score at 2-2. Shots on goal favoured Saint John 12-10.
There were no goals scored in a back and forth second period. While shots were even at 11 apiece, the Sea Dogs had the better scoring opportunities but were unable to get a puck past Dubeau. Early in the period, Dubeau displayed veteran savvy when he kicked the goal off its post, without being penalized, just as it appeared that the Sea Dogs were going to capitalize on a two-on-one break.
At 14:34 of the third period, Zilbert picked off a pass just outside the Sea Dogs blue line, broke in all alone and slid the puck through Bishop's legs to score what would be the winning goal. The Sea Dogs pushed hard for the equalizer but were unable to beat Dubeau in the final twenty minutes. Moncton had 10 shots to the Sea Dogs' 6 in the third to end the game up 31-29 on the shot clock.
Zilbert's breakaway goal late in the third period ended nearly 35 minutes of scoreless, back and forth action.
SN PLAYERS OF THE GAME
Noah Zilbert showed that he is happy to be back in the Maritimes with a strong effort and two goals for Moncton. Jason Bell appeared to be a tad nervous at the start but played very well after his power play goal.
- Alex Bishop was given his second consecutive start, which gave Sebastien Auger a rare extra night off.
- Forward Julien Tessier (flu), forward Mathieu Joseph (shoulder), forward/defenceman Braydon Blight (healthy) and defenceman Jakub Zboril (lower body) did not dress for Saint John.
- Nathan Noel was injured early in the second period but, after a visit with Saint John's team doctor, returned to play midway through the period.
- The Sea Dogs have managed just a single point in three games against division rivals since the end of the trade period. There is little doubt that many Sea Dogs were surprised, and likely hurt, that captain Olivier LeBlanc was traded. However, both Jason Bell and Boko Imama have played well since joining the young Sea Dogs this week. As Ross Yates mentioned on Thursday, it will likely take five to ten games for the team, especially Bell and Imama, to get used to the changes.
The Sea Dogs host the Drummondville Voltigeurs Wednesday at 7 p.m. With Saint John now holding Drummondville's first round draft pick in the upcoming QMJHL Entry Draft, as a result of the trade of LeBlanc to Cape Breton, many Sea Dogs fans will be interested in the results of the Voltigeurs games in the second half.