SAINT JOHN – The Saint John Sea Dogs played arguably their most complete game in a few weeks and earned a convincing 9-3 win over the visiting Rimouski Oceanic at Harbour Station Friday evening.
It was a special night for Matthew Highmore to cap a special week, as the Sea Dogs veteran established a new franchise record for all-time assists (previously held by NHL star Jonathan Huberdeau). This after having just celebrated his 21st birthday and signed a NHL entry-level contract with the Chicago Blackhawks.
The Sea Dogs were led offensively by Mathieu Joseph with one goal and four assists; Highmore with one goal and three assists; as well as Kyle Ward's two goal performance. Other goal scorers for Saint John were Thomas Chabot (1G, 1A), Spencer Smallman (1G, 1A), Joe Veleno, Julien Gauthier and Bokondji Imama. Callum Booth turned in a 19-save performance.
Tyler Boland - the QMJHL's leading point getter - Charle-Edouard D'Astous and Denis Mikhnin replied for Rimouski. Charles-Olivier Levesque turned aside 32 shots in defeat.
- Chabot found the top corner - at 12:25 of the first - from in close after Joseph pulled off a one-man weave through the Oceanic to put Saint John up 1-0.
- Veleno finished off a two-on-one with Samuel Dove-McFalls - at 13:30 of the first - by pushing the puck past Levesque while sliding into the crease and after having been hauled down. The goal was reviewed and stood and the Dogs were up 2-0.
- Highmore tied the assist record at 14:55 of the first as his dish to Imama turned into a laser beam to the top corner over Levesque's glove to put the hosts up 3-0.
- Highmore broke the assist record at 3:04 of the second. Joseph accepted a drop pass from Highmore in the high slot and went bar down to stake Saint John to a 4-0 lead.
- 20 seconds after Joseph's goal, Booth got tangled up in a scramble while the puck went to D'Astous in the slot and the Oceanic defenceman snapped the puck into the goal - much to the chagrin of the Sea Dogs 'keeper.
- After sustained pressure during a five-on-three power play, Gauthier took a cross ice pass from Joseph and made no mistake as he snapped the puck past Levesque on the short side at 7:51 of the second.
- The Oceanic responded at 10:20 - shortly after Jakub Zboril was pulled down in the neutral zone - when Boland's attempted pass deflected off Alexander Bernier and past Booth.
- Just over 30 seconds later, Smallman responded from in close after a saucer pass from the corner by Nathan Noel to put the Sea Dogs back in front, 6-2.
- The visitors came back once again at 17:12 with a lovely goal by Mikhnin, as the import deftly deflected a cross ice pass over Booth's glove to make the score 6-3.
- The Sea Dogs answered back just over 30 seconds later - again - when Highmore setup in Gretzky's old office behind the goal and fed Ward in front. The rugged winger snapped the disk through the legs of the Oceanic goaltender to put Saint John up 7-3 after two periods.
- Ward collected his second goal of the night at 5:11 of the third when his seeing eye shot from the left face-off circle somehow found its way past Levesque.
- Highmore capped the night - on a power play at 12:12 of the final frame - when he tapped in a sweet cross ice pass from Joseph to make the final score 9-3.
- Captain Spencer Smallman also reached a Sea Dog milestone by tying former captain Mike Thomas with the most games played in Sea Dogs history.
- It was old home week for a couple of players. Former Oceanic captain Simon Bourque was excellent for Saint John - and also seemed to enjoy chatting with his old mates throughout the night. Former Sea Dogs pest Nicolas Blachman tried to stir things up a few times but his old buddies did not respond beyond what appeared to be friendly banter. Another ex-Sea Dog, Vincent Martineau - traded to Rimouski in the Bourque deal - did not dress for the Oceanic.
- The Sea Dog Student of the Month award for February was presented to Matthew Highmore prior to the game. Also, Callum Booth earned the nod as the Sea Dogs Irving Oil Player of the Month.
- After a series of recent suspensions, the Sea Dogs showed much more discipline and restraint for the second consecutive game, instead focusing on hard work and impressive puck movement. All positive signs as the team enters the regular season stretch run and gears up for the playoffs.
SCRATCHESTonight's lineup for your #SJSeaDogs brought to you by @CantrburyDental remember #AlwaysWearYourMouthGuard pic.twitter.com/UyRRsxstfe— Saint John Sea Dogs (@SJSeaDogs) March 3, 2017
Oliver Felixson is recovering from an upper body injury, while David Comeau, Matt Green and Landon Quinney were given a night off.
The Sea Dogs' three goal outburst, in under three minutes, late in the first period gave the hosts a commanding lead.
SN STARS OF THE GAME
1. Matthew Highmore
2. Mathieu Joseph
3. Simon Bourque
The Sea Dogs host the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles on Sunday afternoon at 3 p.m.