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.
Flynn offered his explanation.
"They’re teenagers. It’s a big stage. Sometimes it’s so important to you that you get nervous. But that’s part of learning to succeed in this tournament."
The Sea Dogs will no doubt be better prepared for Monday's game against the OHL champion Erie Otters, which has added importance now with Saint John dropping their opener. The Otters begin tournament play on Saturday afternoon against the Seattle Thunderbirds.
"It’s very cliché but we just have to play our game," said Highmore. "We have to get back to the things we do really well. Kind of simplify (our game) a bit and get pucks to the net. We’ll be okay."
Flynn said the team has put Friday's game on the shelf and is solely focused on the Otters.
"We have to have more offensive zone time and we have to have better exits," the coach said. "I don’t know if it’s urgency, but I think we were a little starstruck. And it happens to teams when they go to this tournament."
The Sea Dogs and Otters faceoff on Monday at 8 p.m. The game can be seen on Sportsnet.