The Saint John Sea Dogs roared back from an early deficit to defeat the QMJHL champions Shawinigan Cataractes 5-3 to claim a spot in the Memorial Cup Final this Wednesday.
William Dufour had four goals on the game including three goals in 6:30 to erase the 3-0 deficit early in the game.
“Will shoots the puck a lot. He scored over 50 goals this year and the league MVP,” said Sea Dogs defenceman Jeremie Poirier. “I think he showed everyone tonight why he’s the MVP for our team.”
“He’s killing penalties, he’s playing centre and right wing, and he plays the powerplay,” said Sea Dogs Head Coach Gardiner MacDougall. “You have to go with your horses and he’s definitely a big one to rely on.”
Shawinigan failed to contain the CHL’s leading goal scorer and QMJHL MVP in 2021-22, William Dufour largely costing them an opportunity to move on.
“We needed to reduce his time and space,” said Cataractes coach Daniel Renaud. “We gave him a lot of great scoring chances from the inside tonight, but we needed to be tighter on him.”
The Cataractes drew first blood less than a minute into the first period on an errant shot from the stick of Loris Rafanomezantsoa from the blueline found its way through traffic in front of Sea Dogs goaltender Nikolas Hurtubise to give Shawinigan the first lead of the day.
Shawinigan added two more tallies by the end of the first period, one from Olivier Nadeau and a late goal from William Veillette to give the Cataractes a 3-0 lead heading into the first intermission.
“It was nice that 20 minutes came when it did,” said MacDougall. “All of a sudden we were down by three goals, and to have the response we did when they scored was encouraging for our team.”
The Sea Dogs got on the board twice in the span of 21 seconds to start the second period with Dufour netting both tallies, pulling the game back to within a goal.
The onslaught did not stop there, as Dufour’s dominance continued, he collected his own rebound kicked out by Antoine Coulombe and converted on the opportunity.
Dufour collected his hat trick over a span of 6:36, but more importantly, tied the game 3-3.
“All you need to do is find a way to be able to reset and we couldn’t do that tonight,” said Renaud.
Running into penalty trouble shortly afterward, the Sea Dogs capitalized on a frantic sequence that ended with Jeremie Poirier firing a bullet past Coulombe to give the host their first lead of the afternoon.
Saint John added one more goal part-way through the third period, putting the game out of reach for Shawinigan, stifling their opportunity to move to the finals, but instead, a semi-final date with the Hamilton Bulldogs Monday evening is on the schedule.
“Hamilton has a great team. They have a lot of offence and speed,” said Renaud. “They like to blow the zone, so we’ll have to play the defensive side and capitalize on our scoring chances. It’s going to be a great game”
While the Sea Dogs earned three days off, MacDougall reiterated the need to keep trying to find ways to improve as a team, but most importantly, rest for the biggest game of the season.
“We have to prepare to play any game in this tournament, but we’re hanging around,” said MacDougall of his team’s resilience. “People were saying we weren’t going to last long, so it’s really important that we had an emotional game and we’re fortunate that we can use these days for recovery.”
The Sea Dogs move into uncharted territory, just one win away from ultimate glory, while the QMJHL champions will have to win on Monday night to keep their dreams alive.