SAINT JOHN – The Saint John Sea Dogs drew first blood in the QMJHL's President Cup Final with a convincing 6-3 victory over the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada Friday evening at Harbour Station.
The victory gives the Sea Dogs a 1-0 lead in the best-of-seven series.
Julien Gauthier and Matthew Highmore each had two goals and an assist to lead the Sea Dogs. Mathieu Joseph added a goal plus two assists and Nathan Noel added an empty net marker to round out the scoring for Saint John.
TJ Melancon (two) and Morgan Adams-Moisan replied for the Armada.
The combined nine goals scored on Friday against arguably the top two goaltenders in the QMJHL was unexpected. Callum Booth backstopped the Sea Dogs with a 24 save performance, while Samuel Montembeault had 22 saves for the Armada.
- The Sea Dogs came out strong and got on the scoreboard first. While on a power play at 5:13, Gauthier tipped a hard cross crease pass from Joseph to finish off a nice threw-way passing play initiated by Highmore.
- Highmore scored a shorthanded goal at 7:25 when he created a turnover just inside his own blue line, broke away all alone and snapped the puck over Montembeault's blocker.
- Booth had likely his best save of the game at 9:15 of the first when he absolutely robbed Adams-Moisan in close after a turnover.
- At 18:00 of the first, while skating with an extra attacker during a delayed penalty call, Melancon charged the net a banged the puck past Booth before a Sea Dogs defender could control the puck.
- Highmore restored Saint John's two-goal lead at 2:52 of the second period - seconds after referee Dominick Bedard waved off an apparent goal - when he collected the rebound of a Joseph shot and snapped it past Montembeault.
- Melancon got the visitors back to within one at 10:55 by unloading a booming slap shot from the right point that beat a screened Booth.
- Less than 20 seconds later - at 11:13 - Gauthier essentially gave the Armada the ol' 'Mutombo "no no no" finger wag' as he picked up the puck along the left wing boards, curled into the face-off circle and unleashed a laser beam over Montembeault's shoulder on the short side.
- The resilient Armada came back again at 16:53 when Adams-Moisan went bar down with a rocket off the cross bar and and into the mesh behind Booth.
- At 19:45 - while skating on a rare five-on-three power play - Saint John responded with their own counter-punch when Joseph finished off another beautiful tic-tac-toe passing play by one-timing a cross crease pass from Gauthier past Montembeault.
- Montembeault turned in his save of the night just past the nine-minute mark when he made an incredible kick save to rob Bokondji Imama in close.
- Following a series of stellar defensive plays by Saint John throughout the third period, Noel capped the scoring at 17:38 with a wrist shot from roughly ten feet on his side of centre into an empty net to give the Sea Dogs their first three goal lead of the game.
- The crowd of 5,883 were thrilled to see former Sea Dogs great - and current Florida Panthers star - Jonathan Huberdeau come out to centre ice for a ceremonial puck drop to kick off the series.
- Fans were also brought to their feet later to cheer current Sea Dog Oliver Felixson - who returned to Saint John from Finland, where he is in the midst of cancer treatments. The towering defenceman appears to be doing well in his recovery.
- Friday was a return to Harbour Station for current Armada head coach and general manager Joel Bouchard as he started his American Hockey League career with the Saint John Flames.
SCRATCHESTonight's #SJSeaDogs lineup, brought to you by @CantrburyDental. #AlwaysWearYourMouthGuard pic.twitter.com/Up7bDUHfH7— Saint John Sea Dogs (@SJSeaDogs) May 5, 2017
Oliver Felixson (cancer treatments) remains out. Goaltender Matt Williams, forwards Samuel Leblanc and Landon Quinney, as well as defencemen David Comeau and Ian Smallwood were healthy scratches.
In the dying seconds of a middle frame which was filled with punch/counter-punch goals, Mathieu Joseph essentially delivered a TKO blow with a power play goal at 19:45.
SN STARS OF THE GAME
1. Matthew Highmore
2. Julien Gauthier
3. Mathieu Joseph
TWEET OF THE GAME
NEXT GAMESo good to have @OFelixson here for a couple days.. guy is kicking cancer's butt and I'm so proud of him!! #FCancer #HOS pic.twitter.com/RqAq2ZuCb3— DK (@SeaDogsDK) May 5, 2017
Saint John and Blainville-Boisbriand play Game 2 of the President Cup Final Saturday evening at Harbour Station, starting at 7 p.m.