May 27, 2011
Sea Dogs restless
By TERRY KOSHAN, QMI Agency
MISSISSAUGA, ONT. - They've been to the Hockey Hall of Fame.
They saw The Hangover Part II.
They tried to get the best of each other in a war of video games at Playdium.
The Saint John Sea Dogs have done all that and more in the past several days. What the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League champions haven't done is play a hockey game, which, at the 2011 Memorial Cup, is what it's all about.
Though his players have been idle since Tuesday night, Sea Dogs coach Gerard Gallant is not too concerned whether they will be mentally sharp for the Cup final on Sunday night.
"I'm glad it's coming soon because our kids are getting restless," Gallant said on Friday. "The big thing for me is, would I like the time off? Mostly, I wouldn't. But we have had a lot of guys sick, a lot of bad coughs, a couple of guys sore from the playoffs, so it was good timing for our team."
A guy who has benefited from the time off is Simon Despres, the Sea Dogs' top defenceman. He has been dealing with bronchitis and was among a handful of Saint John players who were held out of the team's last round-robin game, an overtime loss to Kootenay on Tuesday night.
Walking a balance between fuan and hard work has been crucial for the Sea Dogs. They were not on the ice on Wednesday after losing the night before against the Ice, but a couple of days of intense practices has them thinking about hockey again.
The gap between games is nothing new to Saint John. It lost just three games in the QMJHL playoffs, so there was plenty of down time between series. But getting their heads into each series was not a big challenge. The Sea Dogs didn't lose Game 1 once.
"Usually it took us a couple of shifts or the first 10 minutes to get into the game," overage forward Michael Kirkpatrick said. "This has been a little bit of a shorter break and our practices have been good."
Taking the time to do things where puck and stick weren't involved was important, Kirkpatrick said.
"We've done it all year," he said. "Our coach has told us to have some fun because this week is a once in a lifetime opportunity. Our team chemistry and spirit is great, and we all really like each other."
No matter who the Sea Dogs square off against on Sunday, Gallant, of course, can't say for sure what the outcome will be. True, they will be facing a team that has gone through a grinder, and one that won't be short on welts. But momentum could carry their opponent, which is coming off an emotional win in the semifinal.
"Who knows what is going to happen?" Gallant said. "You look at teams that win a seven-game series, and then they come right back and win the first game two nights later against a rested team. It goes both ways. I think our kids will be ready. To me, it is mostly mental. We will be sharp."