On February 10, 2008, the Saint John Sea Dogs rolled into the Marcel Dionne Centre with a simple goal – to make the playoffs. In the battle of worst versus first, Saint John defeated the cellar dwelling Drummondville Voltigeurs 5-2 on national television. The same pressure will be on the Dogs tonight.
“We’re really looking forward to playing Drummondville on Friday,” said sophomore defenseman Nathan Beaulieu to saintjohnseadogs.com earlier this week. “They’ve got a strong team this year and so do we. It should be a great game.”
Unlike in 2008, the Sea Dogs aren’t watching the Halifax Mooseheads in their rearview mirror for top spot in the Atlantic division. Instead, Saint John is watching the Volts for first place overall in the QMJHL.
"We really want to show we're a contender and that we're the best team in the league,'' goatender Marc-Antoine Gelinas said to the Telegraph-Journal."This is the game to show it.”
Gelinas, who sits first in the league in most goaltending statistics among starters, feels keeping the Sea Dogs 13 game winning streak alive is key to earning respect. "The 13 wins in a row won't matter if we lose that game. We have to keep the streak going with this game, no matter what it takes.''
If Rogers Sportsnet was broadcasting this game like they were in 2008, one of their keys to the game would be for Saint John to stay out of penalty trouble. The Dogs sit last in last in the league in penalty killing with a rating of 74%. Last Saturday, both of Bathurst’s goals came on the power play.
"We're doing a decent job overall, but any time the puck gets to our net it's always the rebound goals,” said Sea Dogs head coach Gerard Gallant. “So we basically have to get harder and stronger and more physical in front of our own net. There are too many rebounds there and we're getting out-manned there."
One of the players who will be looking for those rebounds is Marc-Olivier Vachan, who leads the Volts in scoring and sits third in the QMJHL when it comes to acquiring points. Vachan also leads the league in goal scoring with 18 in 24 games played. But Vachan can't do it alone, which is something the Volts and Sea Dogs have in common. The two teams are tied for most goals scored in the league this season with 110.
"The Sea Dogs have a lot of offensive talent, but they prefer to wait for the mistakes of the opponent,” said Drummondville head coach Mario Duhamel to L’Express. “They are not very aggressive on the forecheck. However, they are very patient and they wait for opportunities. We will therefore limit the turnovers and remain well positioned on the ice.”
Voltigeur backup goaltender Fredric Piche (pictured above) will get the start in goal after Antoine Tardif allowed five goals on 16 shots Sunday against the Quebec Remparts. The former Acadie-Bathurst Titan is 4-0 with a GAA of 1.75 and save percentage of 0.895%.
“Earlier this season, he responded well when he was given the challenge of facing Gatineau, "said Duhamel, referring to the 2-1 win at Gatineau on October 11.
Both teams will be at their best tonight after having close to a week to prepare due to the Subway Super Series.
"It's a big game with two of the top teams in the league, point-wise," said Gerard Gallant. "They had a tough loss in their last game against Quebec, so they'll be ready to go and it should be a good challenge."
Game time is 8:30 pm AST. Fans can listen the game on News 88.9 FM beginning at 8:25 pm.