Saturday, April 29, 2017

Armada advance to QMJHL final

The Blainville-Boisbriand Armada have advanced to the President Cup final.

The Armada eliminated the Charlottetown Islanders this afternoon on the Island, winning 5-2 to take the semifinal series in five games.

Armada goaltender Samuel Montembeault made 31 saves - including 28 in the first two periods - in the win. Charlottetown outshot the Armada 14-4 in the opening period but could beat Montembeault just once (and twice overall).

The Islanders were without their top player, Pittsburgh Penguins prospect Daniel Sprong, for this game due to suspension.

Charlottetown won the first game of this series but went on to lose four straight. The Isles had a difficult time keeping the puck out of their own net, allowing four or more goals in each of the final four games of the series - this after a Game 1 shutout.

This will be labelled an upset, but not a big one. The Islanders finished fourth overall in the league standings with 96 points while the Armada were right behind them with 92. The biggest surprise of this series is that it ended so abruptly, going just five games.

This series loss will no doubt sting in Charlottetown for some time. The team loaded up at the trade deadline with Sprong returning. Making it the semifinals - the first trip in franchise history - is certainly a accomplishment, but the team had to have had higher hopes following the moves they had made.

The Armada, meanwhile, have been quite a story this post-season. After sweeping Drummondville in the opening round, they fell down 3-1 in their second round series with the Acadie-Bathurst Titan. But the squad rattled off three straight wins to take the series in seven. They have gone 7-1 since being down 3-1 to the Titan.

This will be the first trip to the President Cup final for the Armada/Montreal Junior/St. John's Fog Devils franchise - Saint John's expansion cousins. The team has made the playoffs every year of their existence, making it to the semifinals twice previously. It was only a matter of time before they made a final.

The Armada will play the winner of the Sea Dogs - Chicoutimi Sagueneens semifinal series. Game 6 of that series is tomorrow at 5 p.m. in Chicoutimi. The Sea Dogs lead 3-2.

Friday, April 28, 2017

RECAP: Sea Dogs win 4-0

FINAL: Chicoutimi 0, Saint John 4
Kevin Chambers | SN Staff

SAINT JOHN – The Saint John Sea Dogs shook off a shaky opening 20 minutes to defeat the Chicoutimi Sagueneens 4-0 on Friday at Harbour Station in Game 5 of the President Cup semifinal series.

The win gives the Sea Dogs a 3-2 series lead heading into Game 6 on Sunday in Chicoutimi. A win by Saint John on Sunday would put them into the league final for the first time since 2012.

Picking up goals for the Sea Dogs of Friday were Jakub Zboril, Nathan Noel, Thomas Chabot and Joe Veleno. Callum Booth recorded another shutout with a 23-save performance.

The Sagueneens stayed in the game for some time thanks to the play of goaltender Julio Billio, who took a 48-save loss.

To the notes…
  • There was no scoring in a very tight checking opening period. Chances were very limited on both sides.
  • The Sea Dogs scored the game’s first goal at 13:19 of the second period when Zboril hammered a shot from the blue line by Billia to make it 1-0.
  • The Dogs didn’t waste much time adding to their lead as Noel picked up his first of the playoffs at 15:45. After a nifty passing play, Noel was left with a yawning cage, making it 2-0.
  • Chabot scored on a great individual effort at 5:46 of the third, skating through the entire Sags team and whipping a wrist shot past Billia. That made it 3-0 Sea Dogs.
  • Saint John extended their lead once again at 10:09 of the third when Veleno buried a Julien Gauthier feed past Billia. That would make it a 4-0 final.
  • Booth recorded his second shutout of the playoffs both against Chicoutimi
  • Brendan Hamelin missed Friday's game after a big hit by Zboril in Game 4. Hamelin has been released from hospital but is out with a concussion.
  • Matthew Highmore and Mathieu Joseph had their point streaks come to an end at 12 games.
  • Saint John had 52 shots in this game - 44 of which came in the final two periods.

Playoffs Game Day: Game 5 vs Sagueneens

The semifinal series between the Saint John Sea Dogs and Chicoutimi Sagueneens is now a best-of-three. Game 5 of the series goes tonight at 7 p.m. at Harbour Station.

TV/Radio/Webcast: Rogers TV/96.1 NewSong FM/QMJHL Live

Series status: The best-of-seven President Cup semifinal series is tied 2-2.

Last game: The Sagueneens won Game 4 by score of 4-3 on Wednesday in Chicoutimi. Brendan Hamelin scored twice for the Sags while singles came from Mark Bzowey and Joey Ratelle. The Sea Dogs had a pair of goals from Mathieu Joseph and a solo marker from Bokondji Imama. Julio Billia made 30 saves in the win. Callum Booth made 19 saves in the loss.

2016-17 regular season head-to-head: The Sea Dogs went 2-0-0-0 against the Sagueneens in the regular season while Chicoutimi went 0-2-0-0 against Saint John.

Ex-Sea Dogs on the Sagueneens: None.

Random stat: Nicolas Roy has two goals and three assists so far in this series. Mathieu Joseph, meanwhile, has a goal and five assists.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Is Friday's game a must-win for Saint John?

Is Friday's Game 5 a must-win for the Saint John Sea Dogs?

Technically, it's not. A Sea Dogs loss and Saint John could still win the series in seven games. But if the Chicoutimi Sagueneens' playoff run so far is any indication, the Sea Dogs may want to treat it like a must-win game.

Chicoutimi is 10-5 so far in this year's playoffs. But when coming off a loss, the Sags are an impressive 5-0. They have yet to lose back-to-back games this post-season.

Here's how Chicoutimi has performed in games following a loss:

Round 2, Game 2: 5-2 win at Rouyn-Noranda
Round 2, Game 4: 6-1 win vs Rouyn-Noranda
Round 2, Game 7: 4-3 OT win at Rouyn-Noranda
Round 3, Game 2: 3-2 2OT win at Saint John
Round 3, Game 4: 4-3 win vs Saint John

In short, if the Sags win Friday's Game 5, defeating them twice in a row to win the series could be a problem for Saint John.

Friday's game takes place at 7 p.m. at Harbour Station. Game 6 is in Chicoutimi (which sold out in just 23 minutes) on Sunday at 5 p.m. while a Game 7 would be Tuesday night back in Saint John.

The Sags have been very good in this series, but the Dogs could be up 3-1 in this series or even advanced. That's no disrespect to Chicoutimi, they've played well enough to be in this position. But one of their wins came in overtime while the other came via a goal in the final seconds of regulation, games that could have just as easily gone in Saint John's favour. But that's hockey - and now we're treated to longer, entertaining series.

RECAP: Sea Dogs lose 4-3

FINAL: Saint John 3, Chicoutimi 4
CHICOUTIMI, Que. - That was a heartbreaker.

With 13.9 seconds left in regulation time, Joey Ratelle broke a 3-3 tie, giving the Chicoutimi Sagueneens a 4-3 victory over the Saint John Sea Dogs in Game 4 of the President Cup semifinal series on Wednesday. The Sags' win ties the series at 2-2.

Brendan Hamelin, who ended up leaving the game on a stretcher, scored two goals while Mark Bzowey added a solo marker. Julio Billia was terrific in net for Chicoutimi, making 30 stops.

Mathieu Joseph scored twice for Saint John while Bokondji Imama added a solo marker. Callum Booth made 19 stops in the loss.

This game could have gone either way. The Sea Dogs never led - despite outshooting the Sags 33-23 - but battled back several times, including tying the game with a shorthanded goal midway through the third.

While the series is tied 2-2, it's hard to argue that the Dogs haven't had an edge in play. One of Chicoutimi's wins was in overtime while the other was essentially in overtime. Those games could have gone either way. The Sags are a good team and giving the Dogs a good run, but it's not time to panic just yet.

To the notes...
  • Saint John got an early power play in this game but could not get a whole lot going.
  • Chicoutimi opened the scoring at 13:17 when Bzowey scored, beating Booth on a nice deke after the Sea Dogs goaltender came out to challenge the play.
  • Joseph tied the game with a power play goal at 4:04 of the second period.
  • After failing to score on a power play of their own, Hamelin scored at 11:06 to put Chicoutimi back in front, 2-1. A point shot bounced to Hamelin in front who spun around at the top of the crease and potted the puck past Booth.
  • Saint John - particularly Nathan Noel - had a few great shorthanded chances in the period, none better than a two-on-none that was stopped by Billia late in the frame.
  • After Saint John couldn't connect on a power play, Hamelin scored at 2:38 of the third to put Chicoutimi up 3-1. The puck came loose after a scramble and Hamelin put it through Joe Veleno and a diving Booth.
  • Just 37 seconds later, Imama scored to cut Chicoutimi's lead to 3-2.
  • After a bizarre interference call on Thomas Chabot, the Sags headed to the power play at 9:45. But at 10:34, and after some fine penalty killing by the Dogs, Joseph scored to even things up at 3-3.
  • There was a big scramble in the Saint John crease in the final minute. The play would be reviewed upstairs but called no goal.
  • Ratelle scored with 13.9 seconds left in the third, giving the Sags the win.
  • Dmitry Zhukenov was down for a while in the second period after taking a hit from Imama. He left the game but did return.
  • Hamelin took a hit from Jakub Zboril in the third period and was in a lot of discomfort. He was able to stand up with some help but was carted off on a stretcher anyways. 
  • Joseph and Matthew Highmore extended their point streaks to 12 games.
  • This was Saint John's first road loss of the playoffs.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Playoffs Game Day: Game 4 at Chicoutimi

The Saint John Sea Dogs can take a commanding 3-1 series lead with a victory tonight in Chicoutimi. Puck drop time for Game 4 is 8:30 p.m. at Centre Georges-Vezina.

TV/Radio/Webcast: None/96.1 NewSong FM/QMJHL Live

Series status: The Sea Dogs lead the best-of-seven President Cup semifinal series 2-1.

Last game: Saint John took Game 3 by score of 5-0 last night in Chicoutimi. Bokondji Imama scored a pair of goals while singles came from Joe Veleno, Samuel Dove-McFalls and Mathieu Joseph. Callum Booth was excellent in net, making 25 saves in the shutout. Julio Billia made 24 stops in the loss.

2016-17 regular season head-to-head: The Sea Dogs went 2-0-0-0 against the Sagueneens in the regular season while Chicoutimi went 0-2-0-0 against Saint John.

Ex-Sea Dogs on the Sagueneens: None.

Random stat: The Sea Dogs have now outscored opponents 21-2 in third periods this post-season, meaning 21 of their 53 goals have been scored in the final 20 minutes of regulation time.