It was the biggest game of the tournament for the Saint John Sea Dogs and the Seattle Thunderbirds. Win and move on to the semi-finals and a chance at revenge on the teams that beat you. Lose, and you pack your bags and head back to the coast you left, your season over.
Both of these teams suffered a humiliating loss to a OHL team. The Seattle Thunderbirds went down 7-1 to the host Windsor Spitfires, and last night the Saint John Sea Dogs were on the wrong end of a multiple record setting 12-5 game against the Erie Otters.
The Thunderbirds have had a hard road into the Memorial Cup to see it all blown away in three games. They faced multiple top teams in the WHL playoffs, including the dominant Regina Pats in the final, all on the back of a 16 year old goalie - he turned 17 last week - who looks to be the face of the Thunderbirds the next few season.
The Saint John Sea Dogs path to the QMJHL championship wasn’t as hard as the other two champions had, thanks to the Quebec league having a 1-16 seeding for their playoffs. Losing only two games on their way to Windsor, this week saw them double that up with two losses to Erie and Windsor.
The Thunderbirds were on the lookout for their first ever Memorial Cup win after winning their first WHL championship this year. Seattle has had a taste of the Memorial Cup before, they hosted in 1992 and lost in the semi-finals to the Kamloops Blazers who were kicking off a run of three Memorial Cups in four years. Of course this was before anyone on this team was born, but there are Seattle fans who know just how close the team came to infamy.
Sadly, it was not in the cards for the Thunderbirds. Pinning their hopes to a rookie goaltender, and New York Islanders superstar prospect Matthew Barzal, they were no match for the powerful line of Mathieu Joseph - Matthew Highmore - and Bokondji Imama. They will take their experience, their knowledge of what it takes to win, back to Seattle with them, hang that Ed Chynoweth Cup banner with pride from the ceiling of the ShoWare Centre, knowing a large portion of this well experienced team will be back, ready to defend the throne next season.
It’s in the post game, you realize how much this takes out of a player, especially at their age. '97 born Keegna Kolesar, comes into a post game scrum with fresh tears unless he’s back for an overage year, the Blue Jackets draft pick has played his final game as a member of the Seattle Thunderbirds.
It was tears of joy for the Saint John Sea Dogs, left for dead after last night’s 12-5 drubbing by the Erie Otters, they rallied around the desperation of the of their situation and came out fast, not giving the Thunderbirds an inch.
Seattle letting in another seven goals showed that their run to the top of the WHL was helped by a hot goalie, and luck when it came to the Regina Pat’s injuries. By luck I mean concussing one of their best forwards early on in game one.
The Thunderbirds aren’t a team of elders, They have many players born from 98-00 on their team so there’s always next year for them. The Sea Dogs needed this win, as most of their impact players could be gone next season. One young highlight from tonight was Joe Veleno, who scored twice tonight, giving him three points on the tournament.
The Saint John Sea Dogs now have the task of preparing to face either the Windsor Spitfires (lost 3-2) or the Erie Otters (lost 12-5) again. Their opponent will be decided tomorrow night, when those two teams face off to decide which one gets the bye to the finals.
The next game for the Sea Dogs will be played on Friday night. Another chance for redemption will be in front of them.