SAINT JOHN – The Saint John Sea Dogs kicked off the QMJHL semifinals with a convincing 4-1 victory over the Chicoutimi Sagueneens Friday evening at Harbour Station.
After blowing off a bit of rust in a scoreless first period, the Sea Dogs broke the game open with a balanced, somewhat dominant, attack in the second period on their way claiming a 1-0 series lead.
Simon Bourque, Cole Reginato, Mathieu Joseph and Julien Gauthier all scored for Saint John. Callum Booth recorded 21 saves for the Sea Dogs.
Nicolas Roy replied for Chicoutimi, while Julio Billia was called upon to stop 35 of 39 shots sent his way.
- The Sea Dogs penalty kill was outstanding in the first period as they only allowed one shot on goal during three Chicoutimi extra man opportunities.
- Sea Dogs players and fans collectively held their breath late in the first period after Roy caught Thomas Chabot with a high hit - which the officials felt didn't warrant a penalty.
- Saint John nearly scored in the final seconds of the opening frame but the buzzer clearly sounded - and the green light was lit - before Chabot put the puck past Billia.
- Saint John would open the scoring at 3:44 of the second, when Bailey Webster's "Hail Mary pass" from behind his own goal line was caught by Bourque - just a couple seconds after he left the penalty box - and the Sea Dogs defenceman broke in all alone and snapped a shot over Billia's glove.
- At 6:37 of the second, Nathan Noel carried the puck through the high slot and the rebound of his heavy wrist shot was banged in by Reginato. The goal was initially waved off for apparent goaltender interference. However, upon review, it was determined that it was Kelly Klima - who missed a check on Reginato - who bumped into Billia.
- Less than two minutes after Reginato's goal, Joseph walked the line, completed a nice give-and-go with Matthew Highmore and sent a laser over Billia's blocker into the top mesh to stake the hosts to a 3-0 lead.
- Just past the halfway point of the middle frame, Joey Ratelle attempted to decapitate Joseph with a wicked blindside head shot. Ratelle was given a major and game misconduct for his actions. A stiff suspension should be in order as well.
- Roy gave the Sagueneens a lift at 16:46 when his nifty backhand from the face-off circle beat Booth.
- Chicoutimi pushed hard after Roy's goal. But with 16.7 seconds left in the second period, Gauthier - Roy's Team Canada teammate - unleashed a seeing eye wrist shot from near the blue line which beat a surprised Billia to make the score 4-1.
- Besides another major and game misconduct to Chicoutimi - namely a vicious hit from behind by Vincent Tremblay-Lapalme against Bourque early in the period - and a clear TKO by Noel over Kelly Klima, cooler heads pretty much prevailed in a chippy, scoreless third period. (Ed. Note: Kyle Ward also delivered what seemed to be a pretty bad hit from behind in the period.)
- Chicoutimi coach Yanick Jean likely deserves some credit for constantly berating the officials into seemingly getting some calls in his favour.
- The Sagueneens sported an old school bleached playoff hair look - reminiscent of the 2012 Saint John - Chicoutimi semifinal series.
- Elsewhere in the QMJHL - the Charlottetown Islanders earned a 3-0 win over Blainville-Boisbriand to jump into an early lead in the other semifinal.
SCRATCHESHere is tonight's lineup for your #SJSeaDogs Game #1 of Round #3! Brought to you by @CantrburyDental #AlwaysWearYourMouthGuard pic.twitter.com/0e2YfiCrxn— Saint John Sea Dogs (@SJSeaDogs) April 21, 2017
Oliver Felixson (cancer treatments) and Landon Quinney (appendicitis) remain out. Goaltender Matt Williams, forward Samuel Leblanc and defenceman David Comeau were healthy scratches.
Julien Gauthier's point shot past Billia in the dying seconds of the middle frame proved to be a back breaker for the visitors.
SN STARS OF THE GAME
1. Mathieu Joseph
2. Bailey Webster
3. Simon Bourque
Saint John and Chicoutimi play Game 2 of the semifinals Saturday evening at Harbour Station, starting at 7 p.m.