The Saint John Sea Dogs found themselves on the wrong side of a Mastercard Memorial Cup record. Just three short days later, they’ll be playing for a chance to advance to the Championship Final, a shot at redemption against the same Erie club that filled their net.
The Sea Dogs got back on track a day after their 12-5 debacle against Erie, blanking the WHL champion Seattle Thunderbirds 7-0 and now prepare for a sudden death game of high stakes on Friday.
“It’s all on us now. It’s in our hands,” said fourth-year defenceman Thomas Chabot.
“The last time we faced Erie we were embarrassed, frustrated with the way things ended up. We had a better effort against Seattle so we’re building off that and bringing our ‘A’ game on Friday.”
The Sea Dogs are trying to imitate the 2009 Windsor Spitfires, a team that also began the Mastercard Memorial Cup 0-2 before winning four straight to be crowned national champions.
“There’s a reason why we’re here,” Chabot continued. “We did certain things to make it this far. We didn’t do any of them against Erie last time.”
Chabot is a central figure in Saint John’s veteran core, one that also features overage winger Bokondji Imama and fifth-year Sea Dogs Spencer Smallman and Matthew Highmore among others.
After not making it out of the first round in their first three seasons, Highmore and Smallman reached the QMJHL Semi-Final in 2016 before going all the way, hoisting the President’s Cup this past month.
Those who came before them, a talented group led by current day Florida Panthers forward Jonathan Huberdeau and Montreal Canadiens rearguard Nathan Beaulieu, captured a Mastercard Memorial Cup crown in 2011.
“I had the pleasure of playing with guys like Huberdeau, Durepos, Gagne, MacAulay and Tesink who won the Memorial Cup,” said Highmore, a free agent signing by the Chicago Blackhawks this past season. “You could tell that they always had a hunger and they loved winning. That’s something that stuck with me and I’ve always carried it with me during my time as a Sea Dog.
“There’s a lot of motivation for us going into this game,” he continued. “We know it’s a big challenge and Erie is a great team.”
With overagers Highmore, Smallman and Imama set to graduate and standouts like Chabot, Jakub Zboril and Julien Gauthier off to the pro ranks next season, this group of Sea Dogs wants to finish the race strong and leave lasting memories with the fans in Saint John.
“Our group has been together for awhile, the majority of us for three or four years,” Highmore added. “We’re very proud of what we’ve accomplished, but by no means are we satisfied.
“Come Friday we’ll be ready to give it everything we’ve got.”
Saint John and Erie square off in the Mastercard Memorial Cup Semi-Final set for a 7:00pm ET/4:00pm PT start on Friday. The game will be aired across the country on Sportsnet, TVA Sports, in the United States on NHL Network and streaming online at CHLLIVE.com.