SAINT JOHN – The top ranked Saint John Sea Dogs jumped out to a 1-0 first round series lead after defeating the Rimouski Oceanic 9-2 at Harbour Station Friday evening.
Captain Spencer Smallman accepted the Jean Rougeau Trophy on behalf of the Sea Dogs prior to the game - to recognize the team's first place finish in the QMJHL's 2016-17 regular season - and then proceeded to score three goals to lead Saint John to victory. Mathieu Joseph added two more while Cole Reginato, Joe Veleno, Kyle Ward and Julien Gauthier also scored for Saint John. Callum Booth was stellar for the hosts with 22 saves, including a few big stops after Sea Dog miscues.
The Sea Dogs' attack was so balanced that only two skaters were not credited with points.
Denis Mikhnin and Alexandre Grise responded for the Oceanic, while Alexandre Lagace and Jimmy Lemay combined for 31 saves.
- The Oceanic got off to a decent start, forcing Booth to make a huge glove save off a partial breakaway just past the four minute mark to keep the challengers off the board.
- Despite a couple of close misses early, the Sea Dogs did not record their first shot on goal until after the six minute mark.
- At 6:38, Joseph corralled the rebound of a Simon Bourque point shot and calmly wired a wrist shot to the top corner to open the scoring.
- Just over a minute later, Veleno nearly completed a nice wrap around but the rebound found Reginato in close and the winger pulled off a spin-o-rama and snapped the puck just past Lagace's toe.
- Reginato and Veleno were back at it at 10:45 when Reginato intercepted a pass from Lagace behind the goal and fed Veleno in front for a quick snap shot past the Oceanic goalie before he could get fully back into his crease.
- The visitors responded at the 14:00 mark, when Mikhnin deftly knifed a cross ice feed over Booth's shoulder to make the score 3-1.
- Saint John reestablished their three goal lead at 15:25 when Smallman pulled off a between the legs deflection of a Bailey Webster point shot.
- In an attempted to stem the blue tide, the Oceanic called upon Lemay to start the second period in goal.
- At 3:30 of the second, Ward snapped a beautiful cross-ice, backdoor pass from a pinching Thomas Chabot over Lemay's pad.
- Less than a minute later, Smallman unleashed a seeing eye snap shot from the high slot which beat Lemay just inside the far post to stake Saint John to a five goal lead.
- However, the Oceanic bounced back with a shot from Grise which appeared to skip through Booth's legs at 6:40 of the middle frame.
- After Grise`s goal, the Sea Dogs seemed to be content to settle into a more defensive posture and took a 6-2 lead into the third period.
- While skating shorthanded midway through the third - shortly after Webster blocked a shot from Rimouski's 100-point man, Tyler Boland, in the upper body/face - Matthew Highmore stole the puck in the neutral zone, carried it in close on Lemay and snapped a short pass to a streaking Joseph for a tap-in at 11:51.
- At 14:12, Gauthier pulled off an awesome one-man attack into the Rimouski zone, as he skated through five defenders and then tucked a backhand through Lemay's legs - much to the delight of the Sea Dogs faithful.
- Smallman capped the scoring at 17:22 of the final frame, when he tapped in a slick backdoor feed from Nathan Noel - while former Sea Dog agitator Nico Blachman was trying to goad Gauthier into something in the slot.
- With a little over two minutes remaining, referee Thane Arsenault was hit just below his left elbow by a Sea Dog shoot-in and bravely endured obvious pain as blood soaked his sleeve. Play continued without a whistle until the final buzzer sounded.
- From Jan. 9 - when the Sea Dogs first iced their full lineup following the trade period and the World Junior Hockey Championship - until season's end, Saint John has a record of 23-3-2-0. Included in that period was a nine-game win streak and a 14-game undefeated streak. Impressive indeed.
- In other QMJHL news, Steve Ahern - Baie-Comeau's general manager - was fined $2,500 by the the league for derogatory remarks directed at the Charlottetown Islanders. However, the Islanders responded with a 4-2 win in game one of their series on Friday night.
SCRATCHESHere is tonight's lineup for your #SJSeaDogs brought to you by @CantrburyDental #AlwaysWearYourMouthguard pic.twitter.com/2hfbJenQpj— Saint John Sea Dogs (@SJSeaDogs) March 24, 2017
Jakub Zboril (upper body), Oliver Felixson (upper body) and John Warren (upper body) were unable to play. Samuel Leblanc and Landon Quinney were healthy scratches.
A huge glove save by Callum Booth early in the first that was followed by goals from Mathieu Joseph and Cole Reginato just a few minutes later put the Sea Dogs on a path for success in game one.
SN STARS OF THE GAME
1. Spencer Smallman
2. Cole Reginato
3. Joe Veleno
Saint John and Rimouski meet again Saturday evening at 7 p.m. at Harbour Station for game two of this best-of-seven opening round series.