Sea Dogs take opener from Majors

Majors forward Devante Smith-Pelly checks Sea Dogs defenceman Simon Despres at the Hershey Centre...

Majors forward Devante Smith-Pelly checks Sea Dogs defenceman Simon Despres at the Hershey Centre in Mississauga, Ont., May 20, 2011. (MARK O'NEILL/QMI Agency)

RYAN PYETTE, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:53 PM ET

MISSISSAUGA - Mississauga's David Corrente saw the play from a perfect vantage point on the bench in real time.

He watched a replay of it on the Hershey Centre's big screen along with an announced crowd of 5,429 Friday night, then eyeballed it a bunch more times in slow-motion.

It only confirmed what he and the rest of his St. Michael's Majors mates believed. Saint John's Zack Phillips went offside on the play that led to defenceman Nathan Beaulieu's eventual third-period game-winner in a 4-3 Sea Dogs win over the Memorial Cup hosts to open the tournament.

"Yeah, it was," the 20-year-old Mississauga native said. "I saw it from the bench and it was a pretty bang-bang call but you watch the replays and it's clear.

"We just have to move past it and get ready for the next game." Since he was a little kid growing up in Strathroy, Ont., the highly touted Beaulieu dreamed of scoring a clutch Cup goal. He never banked on it being wrapped in such controversy.

"I didn¹t see it until the replay and it was really close," the likely NHL first-rounder said. "It could've gone either way. The game's so fast and it's a tough call to make.

"I thought the (officials) did a good job and if it happened to us, we would've had to accept it. There's nothing you can do about it.

"We're just happy we got the win."

Majors head coach Dave Cameron was blunt when asked if he saw Phillips jump over the blue line ahead of the play.

"Yes," he said. "The tough part about that was it wasn't someone sneaking in away from the play. The guy was right there and they (the linesmen) made a mistake." To err, Cameron understands, is human. His Majors couldn't score on a two-man advantage for 1:07 early in the third and couldn't come back after taking a rash of penalties late in the game.

The nightmare continues for the 53-win OHL regular-season champs, who couldn't close out Owen Sound in Games 6 and 7 of the league final last week. They've lost three straight and five of their past six games -- their worst stretch all season.

"We had a lot of chances," Corrente said. "Casey (captain Cizikas) hit the post. We're just a little bit snakebit right now." And Saint John veteran goalie Jacob DeSerres, the former Brandon goalie victimized for nine goals in last year's Cup final, slammed the door late with a circus paddle save on Majors forward Rob Flick and a nifty leg stop on Devante Smith-Pelly.

"I don't know if I'd say one was better than the others," he said. "To me, the biggest saves are the one that change the momentum for our team and help us get the win. There were a couple in the second period I made to keep us up a goal that I'll remember, too." The Quebec champs never lost in regulation when leading after two periods all year.

"Since I got to Saint John (in October), we've talked about the Mem Cup," the puckstopper said.

"The big difference from last year is there isn't a big favourite like the Windsor Spitfires here.

"There are four good teams here."

And one dicey play could decide the outcome of a lot of these games.

Saint John, the highest scoring team in the Canadian Hockey League this year, buried three of their four goals, including the disputed Beaulieu tally, on eight power-play chances. The Majors went 2-for-7.

For Beaulieu, his Cup dream took shape when he was 12 years old.

His father Jacques, now the Sarnia Sting GM and coach, was an assistant with the 2005 Cup host London Knights -- major junior hockey's super team in the season of the NHL lockout.

"After the Knights beat Rimouski to win it (at the John Labatt Centre) I went out on the ice with everyone," he said. "I remember looking up as the Knights were celebrating and seeing the crowd cheering and that's when I first thought I'd like to play in this someday." In Beaulieu rookie season in Saint John, he played for his dad. But Jacques Beaulieu was fired at the end of the 2009 campaign and Nathan was naturally upset about it.

At first, he was unsure if he wanted to go back.

"I called Nathan three days after I was hired," Sea Dogs coach Gerard Gallant said. "I talked to his dad first to see what he wanted to do. It's hockey and these kinds of things happen. If there was uncertainty, I never got that sense and when I talked to Nathan, he said, 'that¹s my team, those are my teammates and friends and I want to be with them and win with them.' He¹s been great for us." Beaulieu stayed the course and made it to the Cup.

And even though it was a controversial goal, it got exactly what he wanted for his team.

A quick start.


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