Tuesday, May 23, 2017

RECAP: Sea Dogs lose 12-5

FINAL: Erie 12, Saint John 5
WINDSOR, Ont. - The Saint John Sea Dogs were on the wrong side of history.

The Sea Dogs suffered one of the worst loses in Memorial Cup history on Monday at the WFCU Centre, losing 12-5 to the OHL champion Erie Otters. The loss drops the QMJHL champion Sea Dogs to 0-2 at this year's tournament while the Otters improved to 2-0.
It's difficult to put the Sea Dogs' performance into words. The team has underperformed at this year's tournament and has not at all looked like the squad that cruised (for the most part) through the QMJHL post-season.

Like Friday's tournament opener, Saint John got off to a rough start. It looked like the team might rebound this time, quickly tying the game after an early Erie goal, but the Otters kept grabbing momentum and never let go. Even when it looked like the Dogs might have a chance to get back into it in the first frame, Erie kept pouncing.

If there is good news for the Sea Dogs it's that they are still very much alive in the tournament. A 12-5 loss or 2-1 overtime loss on Monday would have put them in the same position tomorrow. A win Tuesday against the Seattle Thunderbirds will book them a trip to the Friday's semifinal game. A loss, however, would mean an end to their season.

Dylan Strome had four goals for Erie while Darren Raddysh and Taylor Raddysh each had twice. Singles came from Kyle Maksimovich, Alex DeBrincat, Anthony Cirelli and Ivan Lodnia. Troy Timpano made 18 saves in the loss.

Cedric Pare scored twice for Saint John while singles came from Julien Gauthier, Spencer Smallman and Mathieu Joseph. Callum Booth was pulled after allowing five goals on 14 shots. Alex D'Orio allowed seven goals on 25 shots in the loss.

To the notes...
  • Just 1:06 in, Taylor Raddysh scored on Erie's first shot of the game, making it 1-0 Otters.
  • Saint John tied the game at 5:43 on their first shot. Matt Green fed Pare down low and the Sea Dogs' rookie beat Timpano upstairs to tie it at 1-1.
  • Erie quickly retook the lead at 6:40. A Darren Radddysh point shot went off a Saint John stick and deflected past Booth's glove.
  • Then at 8:33, a Maksimovich shot beat Booth glove side, making it 3-1 Otters.
  • Erie made it 4-1 at 10:11 when Strome finished off a two-on-one, blasting a one-timer past an outstretched Booth. The goal was reviewed for offside but ruled a good goal.
  • Joseph got Saint John back on the board at 13:32, firing a shot past Timpano thanks to a nice feed from Chabot.
  • Just when it looked like Saint John would gain some momentum, Cirelli scored on a wraparound at 16:27, making it 5-2 Otters.
  • That would end Booth's night, who allowed five goals on 14 shots. D'Orio took over and made three saves in the final few minutes of the period.
  • Saint John got off to a good start in the second, creating a couple of quality chances. But Erie quickly got good chances of their own, forcing D'Orio to make some big pad saves.
  • Erie went to a five-on-three power play at 6:40 when Saint John was called for too many men. At 6:48, Taylor Raddysh made it 6-2 Otters.
  • Then at 8:26, Taylor Raddysh fed Strome who was streaking in, making it 7-2 Otters.
  • With 10:05 remaining in the period, Joseph was awarded a penalty shot. On his attempt, Joseph made a nice move to his backhand but was denied by Timpano.
  • Smallman made it a 7-3 game at 17:52, scoring with a wrist shot from the bottom of the circle.
  • Chabot was called for holding at 18:00. On a power play at 18:47, DeBrincat scored to make it an 8-2 game.
  • Then with eight seconds remaining in the period and Erie still on the power play, Darren Raddysh ripped a shot from the top of the circle that beat D'Orio upstairs, making it a 9-3 Erie lead after two periods.
  • Strome scored his third of the game at 5:32 of the third, ripping a hard shot from the slot past D'Orio. That made it 11-3.
  • Strome then scored his fourth at 13:20, making it 12-3.
  • Saint John got a couple goals late. Pare scored at 14:29 and Gauthier at 15:22, making it a 12-5 final.
  • Erie had more goals (five) than Saint John had shots (four) in the first period.
  • As bad as Saint John was defensively in the opening period, the Dogs managed to score two goals on their first three shots on the game.
  • Saint John allowed 11 first period goals in the entire QMJHL playoffs.
  • The 17 total goals scored was a Memorial Cup record.
  • There were six players from the Canadian world junior team in this game: Thomas Chabot, Julian Gauthier, Mathieu Joseph, Anthony Cirelli, Taylor Raddysh and Dylan Strome.
  • There were 18 NHL drafted or signed players in this game.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Saint John Library catches Memorial Cup fever

WINDSOR, Ont. - The Saint John Free Public Library is showing its support for the Sea Dogs' Memorial Cup run in a unique way.

Taking a chapter (ha!) out of the Toronto library's Blue Jays playoff tweets, the Saint John Library has been tweeting pictures of appropriately titled books in an effort to support the Dogs - and chirp opposing cities.

Here's the library's tweet from Friday, when the Sea Dogs were set to face the Windsor Spitfires:
And here's their tweet from today ahead of the Sea Dogs' 8 p.m. game against the Erie Otters:
These tweets are fire, as the kids say.

Neither rival library has responded to the tweets.

Toronto area libraries have gone viral over the past couple years for its book spine tweets about Blue Jays playoff games.

Shout out to all the libraries out there.

Memorial Cup Game Day: vs Otters

WINDSOR, Ont. - The Saint John Sea Dogs (0-1) look to rebound against the OHL champions, the Erie Otters (1-0), tonight at 8 p.m. at the 2017 Memorial Cup in Windsor.

TV/Radio/Webcast: Sportsnet and TVA Sports/96.1 NewSong FM/SN NOW and NeuLion

Tournament status: The Otters are 1-0 at this year's tournament while the Sea Dogs are 0-1.

Last games: The Sea Dogs are coming off an ugly 3-2 loss to the host Windsor Spitfires on Friday at WFCU Centre. Nathan Noel and Thomas Chabot scored for Saint John while Callum Booth made 20 saves in the loss. The Otters are coming off a 4-2 win over WHL champion Seattle Thunderbirds on Saturday. Alex DeBrincat, Jordan Sambrook, Dylan Strome and Christian Girhiny scored for Erie. Troy Timpano made 18 stops in the victory.

Head-to-head: This is the first ever meeting between the two teams.

Ex-Sea Dogs on the Otters: None.

Random stat: The Sea Dogs are 2-0 all-time in their second game at Memorial Cups. They defeated Owen Sound 3-2 in overtime in 2011 and Edmonton 5-2 in 2012.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Windsor cruises past Thunderbirds

WINDSOR, Ont. - The Seattle Thunderbirds are in trouble heading into Tuesday's contest against the Saint John Sea Dogs.

The Thunderbirds fell behind 3-0 less than six minutes into their second game of the 2017 Memorial Cup tournament on Sunday at the WFCU Centre, ultimately losing 7-1 to the host Windsor Spitfires.

The loss drops the WHL champions to 0-2 at this year's tournament and puts them on the brink of elimination. The Thunderbirds must win on Tuesday just to force a tiebreaker scenario on Thursday. A loss Tuesday would move them to 0-3 and end their season.

Seattle goaltender Carl Stankowski was pulled after allowing three goals on six shots - although his defence did not help matters. It's unclear who will get the start on Tuesday with their season on the line.
OHL teams are now 3-0 at this year's tournament following Windsor's wins over Saint John and Seattle along with Erie defeating the Thunderbirds, as well.

Saint John will take on the 1-0 Otters on Monday night at 8 p.m.

Sea Dogs stuff at this year's HHOF exhibit

WINDSOR, Ont. - There are once again several Saint John Sea Dogs items on display at the Memorial Cup's Hockey Hall of Fame exhibit.

Below are some bad photos of what is featured this year.

A Jonathan Huberdeau jersey from the 2011 Memorial Cup tournament:

NOTEBOOK: Spits got off to great start

WINDSOR, Ont. - The Windsor Spitfires couldn't have asked for a much better start to their Memorial Cup tournament.

The Spitfires came flying out of the gate on Friday at WFCU Centre, going on to defeat the QMJHL champion Saint John Sea Dogs 3-2.

"I thought I had a really good start," said Windsor goaltender Michael DiPietro on Saturday. "We came out strong and we came out fast. I think it was all of the excitement we built up inside of us. As the game progressed we just kept it at that level and then translated it into a win."

The only real significant issue for the Spits was closing the game out. Saint John applied some steady offensive pressure in the final five minutes, scoring twice and nearly tying the game in the final minute.

"We haven't really been in that situation in a while and I think it was good for us that we did finally close it out," said DiPietro, who made 20 saves in the victory. "It was a good learning experience. We move on from it. Our focus is on Seattle."

The Spits take on the WHL champion Seattle Thunderbirds tonight at 8 p.m.


Getty Images has some cool photos from Friday's Sea Dogs Memorial Cup opener against Windsor. Check them out here.

The Spitfires are on a serious roll when it comes to Memorial Cup games. The team has now won nine straight games at the tournament, dating back to 2009 in Rimouski. Windsor went 4-2 at the '09 event and then went 4-0 in 2010 to win back-to-back titles.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Nerves hurt Sea Dogs in opener

WINDSOR, Ont. - The Saint John Sea Dogs aren't afraid to admit they were nervous in their 2017 Memorial Cup opener on Friday night.

"I think we came out nervous and we were uncharacteristic of ourselves," said overage forward Matthew Highmore on Saturday. "We gave ourselves a chance at the end but it was just a little bit too late."

The nerves hit Saint John early as the team got off to a rough start, allowing the host Windsor Spitfires to have several quality scoring opportunities. The Spits carried that momentum for much of the game, defeating the QMJHL champions 3-2.

"It’s just kind of the moment. I think we were so excited, looking forward to this for the past week and half, the build up… it’s just one of those things that you can’t really explain," said Highmore. "It just kind of happens. We’ll learn from it and we’ll be much, much better on Monday."

Sea Dogs head coach Danny Flynn also felt the team got off to a nervous start - and it cost his team.

"We started nervous. Windsor won the first five minutes and it gave them confidence," said Flynn. "We started on our heels. Having said that, it was only 1-0 after one. But they did a good job at hemming us up in our own end and working us hard. They had a lot of offensive zone time and we didn’t."

If there was any team at this year's tournament that seemed prepared to beat the nerves, it was Saint John. The team has players with Memorial Cup and World Junior Hockey Championships experience.

RECAP: Sea Dogs lose 3-2

FINAL: Saint John 2, Windsor 3
WINDSOR, Ont. - The Saint John Sea Dogs didn't get their Memorial Cup tournament off to the start they wanted.

The Sea Dogs came out flat against a fired up and well rested host team, falling 3-2 to the Windsor Spitfires on Friday night at the WFCU Centre.

Jeremiah Addison, Jeremy Bracco and Aaron Luchuk all scored for Windsor. Michael DiPietro made 20 saves in the victory.

Windsor, coming off a long layoff, got off to a strong start and carried that momentum for the first two periods. The Sea Dogs had moments where they looked like their usual selves, but it wasn't until the final half of the third period when they seemed to find their mojo. By that time it was too late to complete a comeback.

The loss could certainly make the road to winning the Memorial Cup more difficult, but it's far from impossible.

To the notes...
  • Saint John weathered an early storm and got some strong goaltending from Booth to keep it scoreless in the opening few minutes of the contest.
  • Saint John started to get things going near the midway mark of the period, applying some sustained pressure in the Windsor zone - but they were unable to score.
  • Addison opened the scoring on a power play at 15:53, beating Booth five-hole with a quick wrist shot.
  • Not long after, while Saint John was on a power play, Mikhail Sergachev fired a shot past Booth but hit the crossbar.
  • Bracco made it 2-0 Windsor at 18:13 of the second period, beating Jakub Zboril to enter the zone and then putting in his own rebound.
  • Saint John had moments of offensive pressure in the middle frame but they still looked off for much of the period, allowing Windsor to have some dangerous scoring opportunities.
  • Windsor got the third period off to a good start when Luchuk scored just 4:48 in.
  • Saint John finally got on the board at 16:50 with a wrist shot from the circle that beat DiPietro up high.
  • Then at 17:14, Chabot scored with a shot from the line to get Saint John within one.
  • The Sea Dogs had some pressure on and created a few good chances in the final couple minutes - including an unreal chance for Matthew Highmore - but were unable to net the equalizer.
  • Simon Bourque had five shots while Chabot and Samuel Dove-McFalls each had four.
  • The WFCU Centre was probably 90% full or so. There were pockets of empty seats throughout the place and a few empty rows in the upper corner.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Memorial Cup previews and links

WINDSOR, Ont. - Here are a bunch of Memorial Cup previews and links to check out before tonight's tournament opener between the Saint John Sea Dogs and Windsor Spitfires.

Memorial Cup Game Day: at Windsor

The Saint John Sea Dogs begin Memorial Cup play tonight at 8 p.m. against the host Windsor Spitfires. Puck drop is expected to be around 8:20 p.m. at the WFCU Centre.

TV/Radio/Webcast: Sportsnet and TVA Sports/96.1 NewSong FM/SN NOW and NeuLion

Last games: The Sea Dogs are coming off a 5-1 win over the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada in Game 4 of the President Cup Final on May 10. Spencer Smallman scored twice while singles came from Bokondji Imama, Simon Bourque and Matthew Highmore. Callum Booth made 20 saves in the win. The Spitfires' last game was on April 4 against the London Knights, a Game 7 first round loss. Jeremy Bracco and Aaron Luchuk scored for Windsor. Michael DiPietro made 23 stops in the loss.

Head-to-head: This is the first ever meeting between the two teams.

Ex-Sea Dogs on the Spitfires: None.

Random stat: The two teams have a combined 20 NHL drafted or signed players on their rosters.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Five things to know for Dogs/Spits

WINDSOR, Ont. - The Saint John Sea Dogs begin the 2017 Memorial Cup on Friday against the host Windsor Spitfires.

Game time is 8 p.m. with puck drop expected to happen around 8:20 p.m. at the WFCU Centre. The game can be watched on Sportsnet and heard on 96.1 NewSong FM.

Here are five things to know/watch for in Saint John's tournament opener.

Windsor's rest or rust
No doubt one of the biggest storylines of this tournament is how the Windsor Spitfires will perform following their lengthy layoff. The Spitfires haven't played a game since April 4 when they were eliminated in the first round by the London Knights. Will the Spitfires be rested and ready or show signs of rust?

Starting off right
Momentum can be critical in a short tournament like the Memorial Cup. The team that gets off to a good start tomorrow could be setting themselves up for not only a good game but a good tournament. Let's not forget how important Tomas Jurco's goal, which came 1:44 into Saint John's first ever Memorial Cup game in 2011, seemed to give a young Dogs team confidence on the big stage.

Welcome back
Neither of these teams are strangers to playing in - or winning - the Memorial Cup, but it's the first time in some time that either are playing this late in May. The Spitfires' last Memorial Cup tournament was in 2010 (which they won) while Saint John's was in 2012 (they placed third).

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

NOTES: Sea Dogs get send off

WINDSOR, Ont. - The Saint John Sea Dogs touched down in Windsor on Wednesday afternoon following a large showing of support from their fans.

The team left Saint John following a crowded and lively send off at Market Square, where captain Spencer Smallman, head coach Danny Flynn, president Trevor Georgie and mayor Don Darling all spoke.

The team flew to Windsor following the rally and will practice on Thursday morning.

Flynn, along with the rest of tournament's head coaches, spoke at a press conference on Wednesday evening at the WFCU Centre.
Here are a few other notes and links...

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

VIDEO: Sea Dogs' President Cup win

Because it's been nearly a week since it happened, here's a few videos to help you remember the Saint John Sea Dogs' President Cup celebration.

And another:
And one more:
The Sea Dogs will celebrate again on Wednesday at 11 a.m. in the Market Square Atrium prior to departing for the Memorial Cup in Windsor, Ont.

Monday, May 15, 2017

2017 Memorial Cup schedule now confirmed

Now that the four teams are confirmed for the 2017 Memorial Cup, the schedule has been confirmed as well.

Here is the full tournament schedule (all the games Saint John will or could be involved in are in bold):

Friday, May 19: Saint John vs Windsor, 8 p.m.
Saturday, May 20: Erie vs Seattle, 8 p.m.
Sunday, May 21: Windsor vs Seattle, 8 p.m.
Monday, May 22: Erie vs Saint John, 8 p.m.
Tuesday, May 23: Seattle vs Saint John, 8 p.m.
Wednesday, May 24: Windsor vs Erie, 8 p.m.
Thursday, May 25: Tiebreaker, 8 p.m.
Friday, May 26: Semifinal, 8 p.m.
Sunday, May 28: Final, 8 p.m.

This is the same scheduling format as the 2011 Memorial Cup in Mississauga, which the Sea Dogs won. Saint John defeated the host St. Michael's Majors in the tournament opener and then defeated Owen Sound to clinch a spot in the final. The team lost to the Kootenay Ice in overtime in their final round robin game, but the Dogs opted to rest many of their regulars for that contest.

The Sea Dogs have never played Windsor, Erie or Seattle previously. Saint John is 3-1 all-time against OHL teams (defeating Mississauga twice, Owen Sound once and losing to London)  and 1-1 against WHL squads (defeating Edmonton and losing to Kootenay).

All tournament games will be broadcast nationally on Sportsnet.

Seattle clinches Memorial Cup berth

The 2017 Memorial Cup field is set.

The Seattle Thunderbirds became the fourth and final team to clinch their spot, winning the Western Hockey League championship with a 4-3 overtime win over the Regina Pats on Sunday night. The Thunderbirds won the series in six games.

Here's the goal, which came from Alexander True at 12:36 of overtime.
It's the first WHL title for the Thunderbirds. They'll now join the Windsor Spitfires (host), Saint John Sea Dogs (QMJHL champion) and Erie Otters (OHL champion) at this year's Memorial Cup tournament in Windsor.

Seattle finished the regular season fourth overall in the WHL standings with a record of 46-20-4-2 for 98 points. They were not included in the final CHL Top 10 ranking.

Seattle swept their first two playoff series before beating the Kelowna Rockets in six games in the conference final. They then defeated the Pats, the No. 1 ranked team in the CHL for much of the regular season, in six games to win the WHL title.

The most notable player on Seattle's roster is Matthew Barzal, the New York Islanders prospect who played with Team Canada at this year's World Junior Hockey Championships. Barzal was named the WHL's playoff MVP with seven goals and 18 assists in 16 games.

The Thunderbirds' victory means there will be two American teams in the Memorial Cup tournament for the first time since 2007 when Lewiston (RIP) and Plymouth (RIP) were involved. Ironically, this year's tournament will take place a short drive from the US (Detroit) border.

The Memorial Cup begins on Friday with the host the Spitfires taking on the Sea Dogs. The Thunderbirds will face the Otters the following day.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Comparing the three championship years

There were plenty of similarities between this year's President Cup win and the Saint John Sea Dogs' previous two.

Like 2011 and 2012, the Sea Dogs suffered very few loses, playing well at both home and away. The team was also strong defensively this year, sporting the league's best penalty kill just as they did in 2011 and 2012. This year though, the team allowed just 31 goals compared to 39 in past championship seasons.

Here's a statistical look at each President Cup winning playoff run:

PP27.4 (3rd)28.2 (2nd)17.6 (8th)
PK92.6 (1st)88.2 (1st)89.7 (1st)
PointsHuberdeau - 30Galiev - 34; Coyle - 34Joseph - 32
GoalsHuberdeau - 16Galiev - 16Joseph - 13
AssistsGaliev - 17Phillips - 23Joseph - 19

Looking back now, some of those offensive numbers in 2012 seem absurd (an average of 5.75 goals per game!). Some of those numbers got a boost from Saint John's very lopsided first round series with Cape Breton.

It's also interesting that the Sea Dogs' biggest challenge in this year's playoffs came in the third round against the Chicoutimi Sagueneens - just like in 2012. The Sea Dogs lost just once to the Sags in 2012 (an overtime defeat) but twice this year (one being in overtime and the other on a late third period goal).

It'll be interesting to debate in the coming years how these three teams should be ranked. No doubt the team's performance in Windsor this week and next will have an impact on that.

The Sea Dogs begin Memorial Cup play on Friday against the host Spitfires.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

NOTES: Sea Dogs send off on Wednesday

The Saint John Sea Dogs will have a send off on Wednesday before leaving for the 2017 Memorial Cup tournament.

From the Sea Dogs' Facebook:

Join us for a Memorial Cup send off on Wednesday, May 17th at 11am in the Market Square Atrium. Cheer on the entire Saint John Sea Dogs team before they head to Windsor, ON for the 2017 Mastercard Memorial Cup. The President Cup will be front and center, as we hear from Mayor Don Darling, Coach Danny Flynn, Captain Spencer Smallman and more! 
We can't wait to see the best fans in the CHL!

The Memorial Cup begins on Friday for the Sea Dogs when they face the host Windsor Spitfires at 8 p.m.

Here are a few other links...

Otters advance to Memorial Cup

Anthony Cirelli has done it again.

The man who scored the overtime winner for the Oshawa Generals in the 2015 Memorial Cup final scored another championship-clinching goal on Friday, winning the Erie Otters the 2017 OHL title.

Cirelli scored on a power play at 2:41 of the first overtime frame, giving the Otters a 4-3 win and 4-1 series win over the Mississauga Steelheads in the OHL final.
The Otters join the Saint John Sea Dogs (QMJHL champions) and Windsor Spitfires (host) as teams who have clinched berths for the 2017 Memorial Cup tournament. The WHL championship between the Seattle Thunderbirds and Regina Pats was tied 2-2 at the time of this writing.

This is the tail end of an incredible run for the Erie franchise, who set a CHL record with a fourth straight 50-win season this year. The Otters finished first overall in the OHL regular season standings with a record of 50-15-2-1.

The Otters have had a challenging playoff run, needing seven games to defeat the powerhouse London Knights in the Western Conference semifinal and then six games to eliminate the dark house Owen Sound Attack in the conference final. The Steelheads put up a good fight in the league final, but as expected, the Otters were simply too powerful.

Erie has a stacked lineup, headlined by Alex DeBrincat, Dylan Strome, Warren Foegele, and the Raddyshs.

The Otters begin Memorial Cup play on Saturday, May 20 against the WHL champions. They will play the Sea Dogs on Monday, May 22.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Dubois played Final with separated shoulder

A reason for the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada's offensive struggles in the President Cup Final may have been the health of one of their top forwards.

It was revealed yesterday that Armada forward Pierre-Luc Dubois had been playing with a separated shoulder, which he suffered during Game 1 of the series.
Dubois finished the series with just one point - a goal - which came in Wednesday's Game 4.

Blainville-Boisbriand scored just four goals in the four-game series loss to the Saint John Sea Dogs, which set a league record.
The 18-year-old finished the playoffs with nine goals and 13 assists in 19 games. He had 15 goals and 22 assists in 28 games with the Armada in the regular season, who he joined following a trade after playing with Team Canada at the World Junior Hockey Championships.

Dubois was selected third overall by the Columbus Blue Jackets in last year's NHL Draft, two spots after Auston Matthews and one after Patrik Laine.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

NOTES: Sea Dogs dominant on defence

We all knew heading into the President Cup Final the Saint John Sea Dogs were dominant on defence and the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada were not built on offence. But even knowing that, this stat Sportsnet showed following last night's game is really something.
Three of the Armada's four goals in the series came in Game 1. The other was in last night's Game 4.

Saint John simply shutdown the Armada's offence, which, although certainly not as high powered as the Sea Dogs', had been decent in the playoffs up until this point.

Blainville-Boisbriand scored just one power play goal in the entire series, finishing 1/16. Alex Barre-Boulet, who entered the final as the league's leading scorer, recorded just two points (both assists) while Pierre-Luc Dubois had just one goal (which came last night).

Best D core ever?
We'll wait and see how the Memorial Cup goes, but there is certainly an argument to be made that this is the best defence core the Sea Dogs have ever had.

Saint John allowed just 31 goals in 18 games this post-season for an average of 1.67. They allowed 21.79 shots against per game.

In 2011, the team allowed 39 goals in 19 games while giving up an average of 25.53 shots against per game. In 2012, the Dogs allowed 39 goals in 17 games and allowed an average of 26.11 shots against.

Chabot named playoff MVP

Thomas Chabot has, unsurprisingly, been named the QMJHL's playoff MVP.

Chabot was awarded the Guy Lafleur Trophy as the playoff's most valuable player following the Saint John Sea Dogs' President Cup clinching 5-1 win over the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada on Wednesday.

The defenceman finished the post-season with five goals and 18 assists in 18 games. He also finished the playoffs with a +29 rating, an impressive number even if you're not a fan of the stat.

A big story of the final two games was the amount of ice time being logged by Chabot, which was tracked by RDS' Stephane Leroux.
Chabot is the first defenceman to win the award since Danny Groulx in 2002 and just the fourth all-time.

Saint John's Jonathan Huberdeau won the award in 2011 and Charlie Coyle did so in 2012.

Earlier this year, Chabot was named the MVP of the World Junior Hockey Championship.

RECAP: Sea Dogs win 5-1

RECAP: Saint John 5, Blainville-Boisbriand 1
BOISBRIAND, Que. - The Saint John Sea Dogs are President Cup champions once again.

The Sea Dogs clinched the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League championship with a a 5-1 win over the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada on Wednesday at the Arena With A Really Long Name, completing a four-game sweep.

It's the third President Cup title for Saint John and the first since 2012.

Even though the Armada got within a goal in the second period, the game never felt in doubt. The victory capped off an impressive performance in the President Cup Final, a performance that saw the Sea Dogs allow just four goals.

Spencer Smallman scored twice for Saint John while singles came from Bokondji Imama, Simon Bourque and Matthew Highmore. Mathieu Joseph had four assists in the contest. Callum Booth was solid once again, making 20 saves in the win.

The Armada's lone goal came from Pierre-Luc Dubois, which was his first and only point of the series. Samuel Montembeault allowed five goals on 34 shots in the loss.

To the notes...

  • The game started out quite differently than Game 3. The Sea Dogs were buzzing early and created several solid scoring chances. Joe Veleno had the best chance on a power play when he wasn't able to connect on an open net.
  • Imama opened the scoring at 7:29. After accepting a pass from Matthew Highmore in the corner, Imama fired a quick wrist shot past Montembeault to make it 1-0 Saint John.
  • The Armada finally started pressuring offensively near the six-minute mark, which got Booth flopping around in his crease a bit but the puck stayed out.
  • Smallman made it 2-0 Saint John at 17:38 on a power play. Joseph fed Highmore down low who then fired a lovely backhand pass to a wide open Smallman. The Saint John captain had an open net to double the Sea Dogs' lead.
  • The first half of the second period was a nasty one with both teams slashing and hacking away at each other.
  • The Armada came close to scoring near the midway point of the second, beating Booth but not the post.
  • Dubois got the Armada on the board at 13:53, beating a screened Booth on a power play to make it 2-1.
  • But not long after after at 15:21, Bourque scored to restore Saint John's two-goal lead.
  • Smallman scored another power play goal at 5:16 of the third, this time during a five-on-three, firing into an empty net after another nice Saint John passing play.
  • At 15:07 of the third, Highmore rounded out the scoring by fooling Montembeault with a long wrist shot. It was that kind of night for the Armada. That made it a 5-1 final.
  • With Julien Gauthier serving the second game of his two-game suspension, the Sea Dogs went with the same lineup they went with in Game 3.
  • Imama's goal was his first of the series and first since Game 6 of the semifinals.
  • The Armada finished the series 1/16 on the power play.
  • Joseph took over the league's playoff scoring lead with 32 points.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Sea Dogs look to clinch on the road again

It was five years ago on this day that Jonathan Huberdeau lifted the President Cup above his head on Rimouski Oceanic ice.

On May 10, 2012, the Sea Dogs completed a four-game sweep of the Oceanic with a convincing 8-0 road victory, giving Saint John their second straight QMJHL championship. Saint John will look to repeat that success tonight when they take on the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada in Game 4 of the 2017 President Cup Final. Like 2012, the Dogs enter Game 4 with a 3-0 series lead.

Saint John has won both of its previous President Cup titles on the road, winning in Gatineau in 2011 and Rimouski in 2012. The Sea Dogs, it seems, have a long history of winning big playoff games on the road. Of all the series wins Saint John has had over the years, only five have been decided on Harbour Station ice.

YearSeries WinGamesDeciding Game
20081st round vs PEI4Road
20082nd round vs BAT6Road
20101st round vs PEI5Home
20102nd round vs GAT4Road
20103rd round vs VIC6Home
20111st round vs CAP4Road
20112nd round vs VIC5Road
20113rd round vs LEW4Road
20114th round vs GAT6Road
20121st round vs CAP4Road
20122nd round vs BAC4Road
20123rd round vs CHI5Home
20124th round vs RIM4Road
20161st round vs BAT5Home
20162nd round vs CAP7Home
20171st round vs RIM4Road
20172nd round vs VAL4Road
20173rd round vs CHI6Road

If the Sea Dogs clinch the President Cup on the road this year, they will have clinched all four rounds away from Harbour Station, which they previously did in 2011.

Unlike the 2011 and 2012 championships, Saint John has not played any teams from within their division to get to this point. A President Cup championship would give the Sea Dogs franchise three titles, the most by any Maritimes team (we're not including the Laval Titan's titles). 

A win by the Dogs tonight would also be the first sweep in a President Cup final since Saint John did so in 2012.

Playoffs Game Day: Game 4 at Boisbriand

The Saint John Sea Dogs can win the President Cup with a victory tonight over the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada. Game time is 8:30 p.m. at the Arena With A Really Long Name.

TV/Radio/Webcast: Sportsnet 360 and TVA Sports 2/96.1 NewSong FM/QMJHL Live

Series status: The Sea Dogs lead the best-of-seven President Cup Final series 3-0 over the Armada.

Last game: The Sea Dogs won Game 3 of the series last night in Boisbriand, defeating the Armada 2-0. Samuel Dove-McFalls scored both Saint John goals. Callum Booth made 22 saves in the shutout victory. Samuel Montembeault made 17 stops in the loss.

2016-17 head-to-head: The Sea Dogs were 1-0-1-0 against the Armada during the regular season while Blainville-Boisbriand went 1-1-0-0 against Saint John.

Ex-Sea Dogs on the Armada: None.

Random stat: The Sea Dogs completed a sweep of the Rimouski Oceanic to win the 2012 President Cup exactly five years ago today.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

RECAP: Sea Dogs win 2-0

FINAL: Saint John 2, Blainville-Boisbriand 0
BOISBRIAND, Que. - Playing without one of their top offensive players, the Saint John Sea Dogs got it done with their defence in Game 3 of the President Cup Final on Tuesday.

The Sea Dogs allowed just 22 shots on goal and Callum Booth stopped all of them in a 2-0 win over the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada at the Arena With A Really Long Name. The victory gives Saint John a 3-0 lead in the series and puts them one win away from a President Cup title.

Both teams put on defensive displays in this game. Shots on goal were just 22-19 in favour of Blainville-Boisbriand while dangerous shots favoured the Dogs at 11-7.

Samuel Dove-McFalls, who moved up to Saint John's second line to replace the suspended Julien Gauthier, scored what proved to be the game-winner midway through the second period. He added an empty net goal late in the third to secure the victory.

It was the second straight shutout for Booth and his fourth of the post-season. Armada goaltender Samuel Montembeault, although not tested a whole lot, was named third star for his 17-save performance.

To the notes...
  • Saint John's fourth line had the first quality scoring chance of the game when Kyle Ward fired a quick shot from the slot that was stopped by the arm of Montembeault.
  • There weren't a whole lot of scoring chances for either side in a closely fought first period.
  • Pierre-Luc Dubois took two minor penalties in the opening frame.
  • Shortly after killing off an Armada power play, Dove-McFalls opened the scoring at 12:28 of the second. Mathieu Joseph entered the zone, put on the brakes and fed a streaking Dove-McFalls in the slot. The Philadelphia Flyers prospect wired a wrist shot past Montembeault's glove to make it 1-0 Saint John.
  • Miguel Picard had the Armada's first good scoring chance in forever near the 12-minute mark of the third, beating Booth but not the post.
  • The Armada were able to apply some strong offensive pressure in the final minutes of the third period, but could only get a few good shots on net.
  • At 19:44, Dove-McFalls secured the win with an empty net goal.
  • Samuel Leblanc drew back into the Saint John lineup and was on the team's fourth line.
  • Joel Teasdale, who was the victim of the Gauthier hit on Saturday, did not play. He is out with a reported concussion.
  • According to Tim Roszell, Cole Reginato broke a skate blade just before the start of the second period.
  • The Armada are now 0/13 on the power play in this series.
  • Dubois was held off the scoresheet for a third straight game.
  • Great atmosphere in Boisbriand. The place can get loud.

Playoffs Game Day: Game 3 at Boisbriand

The Saint John Sea Dogs look to take a commanding 3-0 series lead tonight against the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada in the President Cup Final. Game time is 8:30 p.m. in Boisbriand.

TV/Radio/Webcast: TVA Sports 2/96.1 NewSong FM/QMJHL Live

Series status: The Sea Dogs lead the Armada 2-0 in the best-of-seven President Cup Final series.

Last game: The Sea Dogs shutout the Armada 4-0 in Game 2 on Saturday night at Harbour Station. Julien Gauthier scored a pair of goals while singles came from Mathieu Joseph and Spencer Smallman. Callum Booth made 27 saves in the shutout. Samuel Montembeault made 33 stops in the loss.

2016-17 head-to-head: The Sea Dogs were 1-0-1-0 against the Armada during the regular season while Blainville-Boisbriand went 1-1-0-0 against Saint John.

Ex-Sea Dogs on the Armada: None.

Random stat: Callum Booth recorded his third shutout of the playoffs on Saturday. Booth allowed four goals following his first shutout and five following his second.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Gauthier "disappointed" to be missing next two games

Julien Gauthier released a statement shortly after the QMJHL announced his two-game suspension.

Here's what Gauthier had to say, via the Sea Dogs website:

“I am disappointed I will not be able to play the next two games,” Gauthier began. “I will be working hard this week, and doing everything I can to be ready for my next opportunity to be back in the lineup.”

Gauthier was given a two-game ban for his check to the head on Blainville-Boisbriand Armada's Joel Teasdale in the third period of Saturday's Game 2. The Carolina Hurricanes prospect will miss Games 3 and 4 of the President Cup Final in Boisbriand.

The Sea Dogs' release said no further comments would be made on the suspension, although the team will have media availability tomorrow morning.

The good news for Gauthier is that he will be playing again this season at some point. With the Dogs up 2-0 in the series, the forward will either return for Game 5 or the team's first Memorial Cup game.

Gauthier has plenty of playoff experience but is having the best post-season of his QMJHL career this year, recording 11 goals and six assists in 16 games. The 19-year-old has been scoring at big moments - he has four goals in this President Cup Final - which is something he struggled with in 2015 when he did not score in the Val-d'Or Foreurs' final six playoff games en route to a third round elimination.

The Armada also requested a revision of a play involving Nathan Noel. No suspension came from the play, meaning the Armada received a $250 fine.

Game 3 of this year's President Cup Final takes place Tuesday night in Boisbriand.

QMJHL suspends Gauthier for two games

Saint John Sea Dogs forward Julien Gauthier has been suspended two games for a check to the head during the Saturday's Game 2 of the President Cup Final.
Gauthier was given a five-minute major and game misconduct for this hit on Blainville-Boisbriand Armada's Joel Teasdale in the third period.
Teasdale was down for a while and did not return to the game, according to Sportsnet.

The suspension means Gauthier will miss Games 3 and 4 on Tuesday and Wednesday, respectively, in Blainville-Boisbriand. The Sea Dogs lead the series 2-0, but this suspension gives the Armada a big boost heading into a crucial Game 3.

Gauthier has scored four of Saint John's 10 goals in this series, scoring twice in each game. The Carolina Hurricanes prospect has 11 goals and six assists in 16 games this post-season.

The Sea Dogs have been scoring

SAINT JOHN - The Saint John Sea Dogs didn't have a whole lot of trouble with Samuel Montembeault and the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada defence this past weekend.

Before the President Cup Final, the Armada goaltender had allowed 27 goals in 14 playoff matches. In Games 1 and 2 of the Final, the Sea Dogs were able to get a total on nine goals past the Florida Panthers prospect.

The five goals Montembeault allowed in Game 1 were the most he had allowed in a game since Dec. 30.

Montembeault and the Armada are used to playing teams with high powered offences, playing Bathurst (third in goals scored during the regular season) in round two and Charlottetown (first in goals scored) in round three. Saint John had the second best offence in the regular season.

Blainville-Boisbriand has been able to rebound from rough loses and bad stretches throughout the post-season, and they'll need to do so again if they want to edge the Dogs. The team has lost three straight games just once post-season, allowing four or more goals in each of those loses.

The Armada are no doubt happy to be heading home where they've lost just once in these playoffs. On the flip side, Saint John has lost just once on the road.

While the Armada defence will no doubt try and improve for Tuesday's Game 3, their offence has also had a difficult time in this series. Alex Barre-Boulet, the league's leading playoff scorer, has just one assist while Pierre-Luc Dubois has been held pointless. The team's power play, which had been so good in this post-season, is 0/10.

Some other notes...
  • Julien Gauthier has been on fire in the President Cup Final, scoring four goals and adding two assists in the first two games. Meanwhile, Matthew Highmore has two goals and two assists and Mathieu Joseph has two goals and three assists.
  • As mentioned on the Sportsnet broadcast, Joseph has scored seven shorthanded goals in the regular season and playoffs combined. The Armada have scored five as a team this year.
  • An update on Callum Booth's playoff numbers: 14-1-1, 1.81 GAA, .917 SV%.
  • The league has not updated its suspensions and fines list yet, but there are no doubt a few plays up for review. Along with the Gauthier hit, Joseph took a pretty bad elbow to the face that went uncalled for.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

VIDEO: The Gauthier hit

Will the Saint John Sea Dogs be without Julien Gauthier for Game 3 of the President Cup Final?

Gauthier was given a five-minute major and game misconduct for a hit to head on Joel Teasdale during the third period of Game 2 on Saturday. According to Sportsnet, Teasdale did not return.

Here's a very bad quality video of the hit:
The QMJHL has been incredibly inconsistent with its suspensions this post-season, so it's hard to say what could happen here.

Losing Gauthier would be a big loss for the Sea Dogs. The forward has 11 goals and six assists in 16 playoff games this year - including four goals and two assists in this series.

Game 3 is Tuesday night in Blainville-Boisbriand.

RECAP: Sea Dogs win 4-0

FINAL: Blainville-Boisbriand 0, Saint John 4
SAINT JOHN – The Saint John Sea Dogs are hitting the road with a 2-0 series lead in the President Cup Final.

The Sea Dogs took a 2-0 advantage in the best-of-seven series with a 4-0 victory over the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada on Saturday at Harbour Station. The next two games will be played in Quebec before shifting back to Saint John, if needed.

Julien Gauthier scored twice for Saint John while singles came from Mathieu Joseph and Spencer Smallman. Callum Booth made 27 saves in the shutout victory.

Samuel Montembeault allowed four goals on 37 shots in the loss.

It was another fairly strong performance by the Sea Dogs. Although not as dominant as we've seen them in previous playoff games this year, they were certainly the better team and deserving of a shutout victory.

To the notes…
  • With 3:24 remaining in the first, Joseph had a shorthanded break but was stopped by Montembeault, blocker side.
  • With 36.3 seconds remaining in the opening frame, Gauthier broke into the zone with a step on the Armada defence and ripped a wrist shot top corner, glove side past Montembeault. That made it 1-0 Saint John.
  • Then with 19.6 seconds left in the period, on a similar play, Joseph broke into the zone and ripped a wrister past Montembeault to give the Dogs a 2-0 advantage.
  • At 14:24 of the second, Booth misplayed a bouncing puck and the rebound went straight to Miguel Picard. But Booth stretched out and made a terrific pad/arm stop to maintain the two-goal lead.
  • Saint John had a five-on-three power play late in the first for over a minute. The team applied some good pressure and nearly had a goal from Gauthier.
  • Smallman scored on a power play just 3:53 into the third, giving the Dogs a 3-0 advantage. Joseph collected a rebound at the dot and then fired a cross-ice pass to an open Smallman.
  • Gauthier then made it 4-0 shortly after at 5:26. A Joe Veleno shot was stopped but Gauthier was in front of the crease and slid in the rebound.
  • At 7:29, Gauthier was given a five-minute major and game misconduct for a hit to the head on Joel Teasdale. The Armada could not score during any of the power play time, though.
  • With 5:13 remaining and Saint John on a power play, the Sea Dogs got the puck into the crease and to the goal line only to have Montembeault reach back and grab it with his glove.
  • With 3:40 left and an Armada penalty ending, Joseph had a wide open net but couldn’t get good wood on his shot and fired it off the side of the net. 
  • Booth's third shutout of the playoffs is a Sea Dogs team playoff record.
  • The crowd of 5,872 was slightly below Friday's crowd.
  • The Armada have yet to score on a power play in this series.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Playoffs Game Day: Game 2 vs Armada

The Saint John Sea Dogs look to take a 2-0 series lead in the President Cup Final tonight at Harbour Station. Game time for Game 2 is 7 p.m.

TV/Radio/Webcast: Sportsnet 360 and TVA Sports 2/96.1 NewSong FM/QMJHL Live

Series status: The Sea Dogs lead the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada 1-0 in the best-of-seven President Cup Final series.

Last game: The Sea Dogs took Game 1 of the series 6-3 last night at Harbour Station. Matthew Highmore and Julien Gauthier both scored twice while singles came from Mathieu Joseph and Nathan Noel. TJ Melancon scored twice for the Armada while Morgan Adams-Moisan added a solo marker. Callum Booth made 24 saves in the win. Samuel Montembeault made 22 stops in the loss.

2016-17 head-to-head: The Sea Dogs were 1-0-1-0 against the Armada during the regular season while Blainville-Boisbriand went 1-1-0-0 against Saint John.

Ex-Sea Dogs on the Armada: None

Random stat: With Matthew Highmore's goal last night, the Sea Dogs have scored six shorthanded goals this post-season, a league high.

RECAP: Sea Dogs win 6-3

FINAL: BlainvIlle-Boisbriand 3, Saint John 6
Lorne Webster | SN Staff Writer

SAINT JOHN – The Saint John Sea Dogs drew first blood in the QMJHL's President Cup Final with a convincing 6-3 victory over the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada Friday evening at Harbour Station.

The victory gives the Sea Dogs a 1-0 lead in the best-of-seven series.

Julien Gauthier and Matthew Highmore each had two goals and an assist to lead the Sea Dogs. Mathieu Joseph added a goal plus two assists and Nathan Noel added an empty net marker to round out the scoring for Saint John.

TJ Melancon (two) and Morgan Adams-Moisan replied for the Armada.

The combined nine goals scored on Friday against arguably the top two goaltenders in the QMJHL was unexpected. Callum Booth backstopped the Sea Dogs with a 24 save performance, while Samuel Montembeault had 22 saves for the Armada.

  • The Sea Dogs came out strong and got on the scoreboard first. While on a power play at 5:13, Gauthier tipped a hard cross crease pass from Joseph to finish off a nice threw-way passing play initiated by Highmore.
  • Highmore scored a shorthanded goal at 7:25 when he created a turnover just inside his own blue line, broke away all alone and snapped the puck over Montembeault's blocker.
  • Booth had likely his best save of the game at 9:15 of the first when he absolutely robbed Adams-Moisan in close after a turnover.
  • At 18:00 of the first, while skating with an extra attacker during a delayed penalty call, Melancon charged the net a banged the puck past Booth before a Sea Dogs defender could control the puck.
  • Highmore restored Saint John's two-goal lead at 2:52 of the second period - seconds after referee Dominick Bedard waved off an apparent goal - when he collected the rebound of a Joseph shot and snapped it past Montembeault.
  • Melancon got the visitors back to within one at 10:55 by unloading a booming slap shot from the right point that beat a screened Booth.
  • Less than 20 seconds later - at 11:13 - Gauthier essentially gave the Armada the ol' 'Mutombo "no no no" finger wag' as he picked up the puck along the left wing boards, curled into the face-off circle and unleashed a laser beam over Montembeault's shoulder on the short side.
  • The resilient Armada came back again at 16:53 when Adams-Moisan went bar down with a rocket off the cross bar and and into the mesh behind Booth.
  • At 19:45 - while skating on a rare five-on-three power play - Saint John responded with their own counter-punch when Joseph finished off another beautiful tic-tac-toe passing play by one-timing a cross crease pass from Gauthier past Montembeault.
  • Montembeault turned in his save of the night just past the nine-minute mark when he made an incredible kick save to rob Bokondji Imama in close.
  • Following a series of stellar defensive plays by Saint John throughout the third period, Noel capped the scoring at 17:38 with a wrist shot from roughly ten feet on his side of centre into an empty net to give the Sea Dogs their first three goal lead of the game.
  • The crowd of 5,883 were thrilled to see former Sea Dogs great - and current Florida Panthers star - Jonathan Huberdeau come out to centre ice for a ceremonial puck drop to kick off the series.
  • Fans were also brought to their feet later to cheer current Sea Dog Oliver Felixson - who returned to Saint John from Finland, where he is in the midst of cancer treatments. The towering defenceman appears to be doing well in his recovery.
  • Friday was a return to Harbour Station for current Armada head coach and general manager Joel Bouchard as he started his American Hockey League career with the Saint John Flames.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Playoffs Game Day: Game 1 vs Armada

The QMJHL's President Cup Final begins tonight with the Saint John Sea Dogs hosting the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada in Game 1. Game time is 7 p.m. at Harbour Station.

TV/Radio/Webcast: Rogers TV and TVA Sports/96.1 NewSong FM/QMJHL Live

Series status: This is Game 1 of the best-of-seven President Cup Final series.

Last games: The Sea Dogs are coming off a wild 6-5 win in Chicoutimi on Sunday. Joe Veleno, Jakub Zboril, Julien Gauthier, Thomas Chabot, Samuel Dove-McFalls and Bokondji Imama all scored for Saint John. Callum Booth made 16 stops in the win. The Armada are coming off a 5-2 win in Charlottetown last Saturday. Alexandre Allain scored twice while singles came from Alexander Katerinakis, Anthony Poulin and Alex Barre-Boulet. Samuel Montembeault made 31 saves in the victory.

2016-17 head-to-head: The Sea Dogs were 1-0-1-0 against the Armada during the regular season while Blainville-Boisbriand went 1-1-0-0 against Saint John.

Ex-Sea Dogs on the Armada: None

Random stat: This is the third straight round that the Armada have played a Maritimes Division team, defeating Bathurst in seven games in round two and Charlottetown in five games last round. The Sea Dogs, a Maritimes Division team, will not play a Maritimes team this post-season.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Five things to follow in the QMJHL Final

It's finally here.

The 2017 President Cup Final begins Friday night at Harbour Station with the Saint John Sea Dogs hosting the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada. The Sea Dogs were built to make this series, and now here they are. They have lived up to expectations so far this post-season and are now just four wins shy of winning a championship.

This is the Sea Dogs' fourth trip to the President Cup Final and first since 2012. This is the Armada's first time here. Both franchises entered the league together in 2005.

As we head into the series, here are five things to watch out for.

1. Can the Sea Dogs finish off the Armada?
The Armada have been a pesky team for Maritimes Division clubs this post-season. Blainville-Boisbriand was down 3-1 in their second round series against Bathurst but strung together three straight wins to take the series in seven. In the third round, they fell 3-0 to Charlottetown in Game 1 before winning four straight to take the series in five. To put it simply, this team doesn't die easily (if at all?), which could make for a long series.

2. A great goaltending battle
Even during the Sea Dogs' glory days, goaltending was never one of the team's strongest points. Weakness probably isn't the best term, but Marco Cousineau, Jacob DeSerres and Mathieu Corbeil were not considered to be among the elitist of elite QMJHL goaltenders. But that changed this year with the acquisition of one of the league'e best in Callum Booth, who has been spectacular. This sets up a great goaltending battle between Booth (12-1-1, 1.85, .912) and Samuel Montembeault (12-2-0, 1.95, .923), both of whom have the ability to steal games.

3. Tale of two power plays
Saint John's power play has not been good this post-season (15.4%, with just eight goals). Blainville-Boisbriand's has been quite good, running at 32.8% (20 goals). That could certainly play a factor in the series, or perhaps not. I don't know. The Sea Dogs have been quite good on the penalty kill (88.5%) though, but they will no doubt try and take fewer bad penalties this round than the last.

Sea Dogs returning to Sportsnet

The Saint John Sea Dogs are returning to Sportsnet.

The Canadian Hockey League's playoff preview has confirmed that Saturday's Game 2 and Wednesday's Game 4 of the President Cup will both air nationally on Sportsnet 360. Game times remain the same - 7 p.m. on Saturday and 8:30 p.m. on Wednesday.

The Sea Dogs were on Sportsnet once this past season, facing the Mooseheads in Halifax on Jan. 7.

All games will also air on TVA Sports or TVA Sports 2. Games 1, 5 and 7 will be broadcast on Rogers TV throughout New Brunswick.

Tim Roszell will also have the call of every game on 96.1 NewSong FM, meaning you should mute whatever feed you are watching and listen to that.

This is by far the most television exposure the Sea Dogs have ever gotten for a playoff series. It was a struggle to find a quality stream or broadcast of the finals in 2010, 2011 and 2012. This is a nice change.

The QMJHL Final is the only league final that will have games air on Sportsnet this year, per the CHL website. This despite Mississauga being in the OHL Final.

Speaking of Mississauga, Rogers TV Peel, which broadcasts Steelheads home games, closed its doors the other day (the OHL Final will still be broadcast). This, along with closures out west, have to create some concerns over the future of local CHL TV broadcasts.

Will the QMJHL return to St. John's soon?

With the Saint John Sea Dogs taking on the team formerly known as the St. John's Fog Devils in the President Cup Final, it's brought back some memories.

It seems like forever ago since the Sea Dogs and QMJHL teams made the occasional voyage to Newfoundland. With St. John's losing its AHL team, it's made many wonder: will junior hockey be making a return to St. John's soon?

This is from Wednesday's St. John's Telegram:
There probably won’t be a replacement team, in any league, here next season, although there is hope Glenn Stanford’s efforts will mean the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League becomes an option in 2018-19.
On April 28, here's what The Telegram's Robin Short wrote:
If the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League doesn’t happen next year, look for a team in St. John’s two years from now.
And here's what Brendan McCarthy wrote on April 30:
However, a willing buyer needs a willing seller and, as of yet, there hasn’t been a QMJHL team that has undeniably been made available for purchase. And the Q isn’t selling an expansion franchise as it did when the Fog Devils came here in 2005.
While a lot of things need to come together, it seems like there is a lot of optimism that the QMJHL will be returning to The Rock somewhat soon.

It's looking like Mile One Centre will be without high-level hockey for the 2017-18 season, which may be a good thing for the market, long-term. The Montreal Canadians are moving the AHL's IceCaps to a new rink in Laval - ironically just a short drive from the Armada's rink.

There are plenty of hurdles to having a QMJHL team in Newfoundland, obviously. There needs to be a buyer. There needs to be a seller. There has to be a solution to financing travel. That arena lease issue thing the Fog Devils had needs to be looked at. These are some significant hurdles, but at the same time, St. John's is a huge market with an arena worthy of hosting a Memorial Cup. It's hard to imagine the league not wanting to capitalize on those opportunities.

It's also been a bit of a weird time in the QMJHL, as there seems to be no team that has been struggling with ownership or finances enough (publicly, anyways) that relocation is required. But that could always change very quickly, as we've seen in the past (see: Lewiston Maineiacs, 2011). It's unlikely the league expands anytime soon, so relocation is looking like the only option for a St. John's team.

Ironically, there will be plenty of eyes watching the attendance numbers of the old Fog Devils, the Armada, over the next few years. The Laval AHL team will be playing close by and is much easier to access by public transit (it's across the street from a metro stop). You'd hate to see a team move, obviously, but, y'know, that's how it goes.

Anyways, all this is speculation. We'll no doubt start hearing QMJHL-to-St-John's rumours a lot over the next year - or however long it takes.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Veleno continues to score in playoff hockey

Joe Veleno seems to like playoff hockey.

On Sunday in Chicoutimi, Veleno netted his eighth goal of the playoffs. Through 14 games, Veleno sits in a tie for second with Spencer Smallman for the Sea Dogs team lead in goals.
It's not the first time Veleno's playoff goal totals have stood out. Last year, in 17 playoff games as a exceptional rookie, he recorded six goals and an assist.

Veleno's goal-assist ratio in the post-season is interesting given how it contrasts his regular season numbers, where he has been more of an assist-getter than goal scorer.
Veleno's goals per game average in his regular season career: 0.24. In the post-season: 0.45.

No matter how you slice it, 14 goals and three assists in 31 playoff games is quite good for someone his age - remember that this is a guy who turned 17 in January and isn't NHL draft eligible until 2018.

Veleno's development has been interesting to follow over the past couple years mainly because it hasn't been much of a talking point. This is a player who would be the face of many franchises in this league, but on this current Sea Dogs team, he sits in the shadows of the Thomas Chabots and Mathieu Josephs. That's probably a good thing, as the exceptional tag no doubt put some pressure on him.

How Veleno performs next season, where he'll be one of if not the team's top forwards - while in his draft year - will be fun to follow.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Sea Dogs to face expansion cousins in league final

The Saint John Sea Dogs will face their expansion cousins in the President Cup Final.

The Blainville-Boisbriand Armada/Montreal Junior/St. John's Fog Devils advanced to their first QMJHL final on Saturday, eliminating the Charlottetown Islanders in five games in the semifinal.

The Sea Dogs advanced to the league final - their fourth appearance in franchise history and first since 2012 - last night, eliminating the Chicoutimi Sagueneens in six games.

The Sea Dogs will have home ice advantage. The series will follow a typical 2-2-1-1-1 format with the first games being held at Harbour Station this Friday and Saturday.

Here is the full schedule:
This is the first ever playoff meeting between the two franchises, who entered the league at the same time in 2005.

The two teams split their regular season meetings. On Oct. 12, the Armada edged the Sea Dogs 3-2 in overtime in the Montreal suburbs. Then on Dec. 11, Saint John downed Blainville-Boisbriand 4-1 at Harbour Station.

Blainville-Boisbriand finished fifth overall in the regular standings with a 43-19-4-2 record.

The Armada have been led by Alex Barre-Boulet this post-season, who leads the QMJHL in scoring with 29 points. Columbus Blue Jackets prospect Pierre-Luc Dubois is second on the team in points while goaltender Samuel Montembeault has been excellent, posting a 12-2 record with a 1.95 GAA and .923 SV%.