SAINT-JEAN, NB | The loss in the first round of the QMJHL playoffs was ultimately just a misstep for the Sea Dogs.
Gardiner MacDougall’s men defeated the Ontario champions, the Hamilton Bulldogs, 6-3 on Wednesday in front of a packed TD Station, to claim the second Memorial Cup in their history, after the conquest of 2011.
This is the third consecutive final of the national junior tournament won by a QMJHL team, after the Acadie-Bathurst Titan in 2018 and the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies in 2019. The event had been canceled for the past two years. due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Sea Dogs were in control from start to finish. They took an early 2-0 lead in the first period and the Bulldogs were never able to catch up.
As he has throughout the tournament, William Dufour was the offensive spark plug for the New Brunswick squad, finishing with a goal and an assist. His seven goals and one assist in the tournament allowed him to finish first in scoring, tied with Mason McTavish and Logan Morrison of the Bulldogs. The Quebecer was named the most valuable player of the competition.
“You go as far as your best players want to take you. William Dufour had an incredible tournament. He shone on the biggest stage and he was the best player on the ice tonight [mercredi] said Coach MacDougall.
The New York Islanders prospect had repeated many times over the past few days that he had no intention of ending his junior career in any other way than with the title of champion of the Canadian League of hockey (CHL). He can now say mission accomplished.
“I have no words right now. It’s amazing to end like this. I’m going to be able to say all my life that I’m a Memorial Cup champion, and to do it with these guys is special. »
Photo QMI Agency, John Morris
Members of the Saint John Sea Dogs were quick to pose for the traditional photo of the Memorial Cup champions on Wednesday in front of their fans.
A TEAM BUSINESS
In addition to Dufour, the Saint-Jean team had the offensive contribution of its other big guns, namely Ryan Francis, William Villeneuve (two assists each) and Josh Lawrence (one goal and one assist).
But their third line, consisting of Riley Bezeau, Peter Reynolds and Cam MacDonald, also played an important role with a total of three goals in the game (one each).
A THOUGHT FOR THE TIGERS
In goal, Nikolas Hurtubise made 25 saves. In his case, it was a second chance, after having missed the opportunity to participate in the Memorial Cup following the conquest of the President’s Cup, last season, with the Victoriaville Tigres.
“We got what we deserved as a group. I also have a thought for the guys from Victo who would have liked to be here. Me and Vince [le capitaine Vincent Sévigny], we think of them and there is a side of our heart with them at the moment. I’m so proud of this group that has worked hard in the last few months to come back from these series that have been flat for us. We are the best club in the CHL, ”said the 19-year-old goaltender.
The Sea Dogs won’t waste any time celebrating their victory since the parade of champions is scheduled for Thursday, 1 p.m., in the streets of Saint-Jean.
On the side of the Bulldogs, the disappointment was palpable after the game.
“The message is that they are champions of champions,” said head coach Jay McKee. They eliminated the champions of the West and those of Quebec in this tournament. We lost a tournament, but won a championship. »
The coach later confirmed that at least six regular players were struggling with relatively serious injuries, including defender Nathan Staios, who was playing despite a broken shoulder.
“The courage these players have shown is inspiring,” he concluded.
The General Manager’s Tears
Trevor Georgie kept wiping the tears from his cheeks during the ceremony after winning his Sea Dogs on Wednesday.
After an incredible season, during which the general manager and president increased the movement of personnel, his team finally proved him right on Wednesday.
“A lot of things are making me emotional right now. Six years ago I moved from Mississauga to Saint John and I remember my 3 year old nephew crying when I left. My family is far away. We started and our young people who have been here since the beginning have lived through difficult years. I’m so glad they had the opportunity to win.
“When I arrived here six years ago, I was in a restaurant and a lady asked me why I was moving to Saint-Jean. That was why [la coupe Memorial]. »
A HUG WITH DUFOUR
Before meeting the media, Georgie had a long conversation with William Dufour, and the two then hugged for long seconds.
After being acquired last summer for the eighth pick in the 2021 draft, forward Simon Hughes and a fifth-round pick in 2023, Dufour has proven himself worthy of each of those items.
“William was on his fourth team in the QMJHL, but he will forever have Sea Dogs blue blood. He was great for us throughout the tournament and he was worthy of a MVP. »
THE MACDOUGALL EFFECT
The other decision that will have smiled on him will have been the hiring of head coach Gardiner MacDougall after the loss in the initial round of the playoffs.
“It wasn’t a popular decision at first, but we knew what he could bring us and we believed in him. He is a winner and we wanted a coach who had experience in the big moments. That was a big moment. »
However, to listen to MacDougall speak after the game, his stay with the Sea Dogs will not stretch beyond the Memorial Cup, as he said when he was hired.
“I answered a somewhat unexpected call and it was an exceptional experience. I may still be in Saint John for a day or two, but I am already looking forward to returning to the University of New Brunswick and continuing our recruitment. »