Saint John proved why they are the #1 ranked team in the Canadian Hockey League on Monday night as they overcame a two-goal deficit, won in overtime and punched their ticket to the Memorial Cup final. Jonathan Huberdeau's goal at 17:35 of extra time completed the comeback and gave the QMJHL Champions the 3-2 victory over Owen Sound in front of 5429 very entertained fans.
The Owen Sound Attack scored twice in the opening period, Matt Petgrave and Andrew Shaw doing the damage, and were arguably the better team in the early going. Certainly goaltender Jordan Binnington brought his 'A' game and he unbelievable at times throughout the contest.
Saint John's top players were definitely their two imports; Tomas Jurco and Stanislav Galiev (WSH). The pair combined 6 minutes in the second period on a nifty passing play that got the Sea Dogs on the board. At times in the middle frame the Attack were really on their heels under the faced paced offence of Saint John but time and time again they were bailed out by Binnington.
Late in the 3rd period Jurco showed why his quick hands are near legendary already at his young age. With Saint John amping up the pressure even more, the Slovakian forward corralled a loose puck while standing off to the side of the net and behind the goal line. In one deft, fluid motion he brought the puck out just enough to flick it into the net past Binnington and tied the game.
Overtime went back and forth until Michael Kirkpatrick chased down a dump in and sent it to the front of the net where Huberdeau was left inexplicably wide open. The sniper made no mistake and buried it behind Binnington giving Saint John the win.
Huberdeau had been criticized, and rightfully so, by the Sportsnet broadcast team and intermission panel for having "an off night". Certainly he was turning the puck over a lot but I thought he was skating pretty well. There was some question about injury, especially early in the second period when he didn't see the ice for the first 4 minutes, but it appears that head coach Gerard Gallant was just sending him a message.
There was plenty of physicality in the contest and I have to say that I was impressed by the response by Jurco and Galiev who not only didn't shy away from it but were the aggressors in some cases. There were 13 power play opportunities in the game, both team scoring one goal with the man advantage.
I thought that in some cases, players were embellishing a bit. Not to say that it wasn't deserving of a penalty but when Jesse Black fell to his belly after Simon Després whacked him on the hand, it was a little over the top for me.
With wins over the two OHL clubs, the Sea Dogs advance straight to Sunday's championship game even though they'll face Kootenay tomorrow night. The Ice need the win to stay alive and force a tie-breaker game on Thursday. That would be against the loser of the Owen Sound and Mississauga game that goes Wednesday evening, both of the OHL clubs have 1-1 records.
You can watch all of the games on Rogers Sportsnet starting at 7pm Eastern time. Sam Cosentino joins us every Tuesday and will do so again this week unless Kootenay and Saint John go into extended overtime.
Also scheduled to be on the program is newly signed Phoenix Coyote prospect Ethan Werek (a former guest player blogger here), 2011 eligible defenceman Joel Edmundson of the Moose Jaw Warriors, Brock Otten from OHL Prospects and we're still trying to track down another intended guest as well.