SAINT JOHN – The Saint John Sea Dogs issued a clear statement during a convincing 5-1 victory over the Charlottetown Islanders - in front of a sold out crowd of 6,187 - at Harbour Station Friday evening.
The playoff like atmosphere was enhanced by four bus loads of Islanders fans, who witnessed the Sea Dogs stretch their lead ahead of Charlottetown, atop the QMJHL, to five points. Four games remain in the regular season for both clubs.
The buzz leading up to this game was electric with several pundits giving the edge to the Islanders in light of several recent offensive explosions. However, the Sea Dogs proved the mettle as they rallied together - following sad news about teammate Oliver Felixson's pending battle with Hodgkin Lymphoma - to win one for Ollie.
Callum Booth was outstanding in goal for Saint John with 27 - often highlight reel - saves. Mathieu Joseph led the Sea Dogs offence with one goal and three assists. Meanwhile, captain Spencer Smallman added two goals, Julien Gauthier had a goal and an assist, Samuel Dove-McFalls added a goal and Simon Bourque chipped in two assists.
Alex Dostie replied for Charlottetown. Matthew Welsh stopped 28 shots in the loss.
- As an omen of what lie ahead, Bokondji Imama ripped a shot off Welsh's mask in the opening seconds of the game but the puck deflected barely over the cross bar.
- The Sea Dogs would open the scoring at 3:24 when Joseph deposited the rebound of a Thomas Chabot bomb past Welsh.
- Exactly four minutes later, while skating shorthanded, Joseph and Dove-McFalls picked up a loose puck in the neutral zone and then played two man tic-tac-toe with Dove-McFalls, snapping the puck past Welsh to put the hosts up 2-0.
- That goal was the Sea Dogs league leading 18th short handed marker this season.
- Late in the first, Imama accepted an invitation to dance from towering Islanders defenceman Tyler MacArthur and scored a TKO with a flurry of blows ending with an uppercut that buckled MacArthur's knees.
- The officials took over in period two with six power plays (four for Charlottetown and two favouring Saint John) - yet no goals were scored in the middle frame.
- However, the referees still managed to draw the ire of the Sea Dogs staff and fans alike as several late hits, open ice tackles and, most notably, at least three cheap shots against Booth went uncalled.
- Not only was Joseph on fire offensively but he made the defensive play of the game late in the second when he stick checked Daniel Sprong just as the Islander superstar was about to shoot at an open net behind a fallen Booth.
- The Islanders bad behaviour caught up with them in the third as Saint John scored three power plays goals to seal the win.
- First up was Smallman at 2:43, when the captain received a pass from Matthew Highmore in the high slot and unloaded a heavy snap shot which beat Welsh short side.
- Dostie electrified the Islanders fans in attendance at 9:08 when he accepted a lead pass - from Saint John native William Bower - in full flight, split the Sea Dogs defence and fired a laser over Booth's glove to bring Charlottetown back to within two.
- A pair of high sticking penalties by the Islanders late in the third proved costly. While skating five-on-three at 13:43, Gauthier took a back door feed from Joseph near the goal line and calmly sent a laser into the top shelf.
- Just under a minute later - at 14:21 - Smallman collected the rebound off a Gauthier shot near the edge of the crease and snapped it behind Welsh to make the final 5-1.
- The sibling rivalry between brothers Mathieu and Pierre-Olivier Joseph boiled over in the dying minutes when they were sent to their rooms after rough housing deep the Islanders zone. It's likely that Mama Joseph will send them to bed without a bed night snack as added punishment.
- The Sea Dogs team defence is to be commended for their strong effort once again in preventing Sprong from earning a point against Saint John thus far this season.
- Sprong entered Friday's contest with 12 points in his previous three games (and 50 points in 26 games prior to Friday), including four goals and three assists in his last game against Moncton.
SCRATCHESTonight's #SJSeaDogs lineup, brought to you by @CantrburyDental. #AlwaysWearYourMouthguard pic.twitter.com/a4ytPbQRcN— Saint John Sea Dogs (@SJSeaDogs) March 10, 2017
Oliver Felixson (upper body) will be out long term. Cedric Pare was in the warm-up but was held out. Samuel Leblanc and Landon Quinney were healthy scratches.
Mathieu Joseph's strong back check on Daniel Sprong late in the second - followed by Spencer Smallman's power play goal early the third - proved to be critical in leading the Sea Dogs to victory.
SN STARS OF THE GAME
1. Mathieu Joseph
2. Callum Booth
3. Spencer Smallman
TWEET OF THE GAME
NEXT GAMEThe @SJSeaDogs break the Charlottetown Islanders 9 game winning streak (and their hearts) with a 5-1 victory. pic.twitter.com/5zDRQ8WhZT— Ross Galbraith 🇨🇦 (@RossGalbraith) March 11, 2017
Saint John hosts the Halifax Mooseheads Saturday evening at 7 p.m. in for Fan Appreciation Night. The game has already been announced as sold out.