May 24, 2011
Ice escape with OT win
By RYAN PYETTE, QMI Agency
MISSISSAUGA -- Saint John Sea Dogs forward Tomas Jurco is known for his dazzling stick tricks on YouTube.
Right now, he's the guy who scored a big Memorial Cup goal while taking the puck on the side of his head.
The slick Slovakian writhed in pain on the ice as his Quebec mates celebrated a dramatic goal that bounced off Jurco's pumpkin and past Kootenay Ice goalie Nathan Lieuwen to force overtime with 14.5 seconds left on the clock.
And still, the Ice found a way to stay alive at the Memorial Cup when Matt Fraser scored 3:45 into overtime on a goal that appeared to be offside in a 5-4 victory before 5,429 Tuesday night at the Hershey Centre.
The Sea Dogs may partake in a little GTA sight-seeing the next few days.
But no team will check out of the Cup for good just yet.
They crashed themselves into a Thursday tiebreaker game neither the Owen Sound Attack, who must make a decision on what to do about injured Joey Hishon, or the host Mississauga St. Michael's Majors really wanted any part of here.
Wednesday's Attack-Majors loser gets the Ice again.
Boy, the Sea Dogs are really gumming up the works.
They dashed the dream of a rare all-Ontario Hockey League Memorial Cup final. There hasn't been one of those since 1993 when the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds beat a skinny Chris Pronger and the Peterborough Petes on home ice.
Then, head coach Gerard Gallant's crew had a shot at some history. Only one Quebec league champ since the four-team tournament format started in 1983 finished 3-0 in the round-robin portion and that was Brad Richards' Rimouski Oceanic squad that won it all in 2000 at Halifax.
But the final-bound Sea Dogs put resting bodies as the primary concern ahead of a spotless record.
And who can blame them?
They're already playing Sunday and they didn't care if the offensively-challenged Kootenay Ice went home or not.
Gallant sat out his big horse on the blueline -- Pittsburgh first rounder Simon Despres, who has been hacking-and-coughing all week.
He gave Mike Kirkpatrick, who assisted on Jonathan Huberdeau's overtime winner against Owen Sound, a chance to watch. The overager dislocated his shoulder in the league semifinal against Lewiston, returned at the end of the 'Q' final against Gatineau and played 30-plus minutes in the double overtime clincher.
Goalie Jacob DeSerres didn't even strap up his pads, giving way to 6-foot-6 Mathieu Corbeil. He has already achieved his season-long goal -- another crack at the Cup final where he surrendered nine goals to the Windsor Spitfires last year in the Brandon cage.
Of course, all three would've played if the season hung in the balance. But it's a tightrope the top team walks in this kind of tourney.
DeSerres is a good buddy of tall Buffalo defenceman Tyler Myers. Two years ago in Rimouski, Myers' Kelowna Rockets were already final-bound and had a nothing game against the desperate 0-2 Spitfires at the end of the round robin.
Windsor prevailed in a tight one, then didn't stop winning. The Rockets were booed in the final by Quebec league fans who thought they mailed it in and denied a Rimouski-Drummondville semifinal.
Those Spits became the only team to rally from an 0-2 hole to win the Cup and though it's unlikely to happen again anytime soon, the Rockets' lesson remains to this day: when you have a chance to eliminate a talented team, finish them.
The Dogs took a two-goal lead early in the second period and the way Corbeil was kicking them out, the Ice looked to be plane-bound in no time.
But Saint John is a hodge-podge of pugnacity and grace. They can dance in the offensive zone with talents such as the Slovakian Jurco (he scored in every game so far), but they combine that with some impromptu parades to the penalty box.
Kootenay tied it on a couple of power-play goals. The Ice, much maligned for their lack of offence, came in with the reputation of a dangerous crew sneaky enough to score a bunch of shorthanded goals, but they haven't been a threat 5-on-5 here and have survived via the man advantage.
The Western champs' continued presence makes for a more interesting tournament. A Saint John win would've reduced Wednesday's juicy Owen Sound-Mississauga tilt to a mere preview of Friday's semifinal.
The rejuvenated Ice scored 23 seconds into the third but the Sea Dogs tied it largely through the vision of forward Jonathan Huberdeau, the overtime hero against Owen Sound.
Fraser looked to have the game won, but that was before Jurco inadvertently used his head.
Then, he won it anyway.