May 29, 2011
Sea Dogs claim the Memorial Cup
By Ryan Pyette, QMI Agency
MISSISSAUGA - Scott McCain grabbed the Memorial Cup and pointed it high as he could towards the Hershey Centre rafters.
The Saint John Sea Dogs majority owner's dad Wallace -- the frozen french fry king who went on to run Maple Leaf foods -- died of cancer a week before the Quebec league champions played their opening game on the Canadian Hockey League's grandest stage in Mississauga.
"Before he passed away, I told my father I thought we had a chance to win a trophy," McCain said after his six-year-old club beat the host St. Michael's Majors 3-1 Sunday night to become the first Maritime team to capture major junior hockey's biggest prize. "It's very emotional. The kids just played great and my dad loved hockey and this team.
"I know he's looking down on us and he's smiling."
The Memorial Cup represents a lot of things. The father-son bond is right up at the top of the heap.
Nathan Beaulieu recognized the look of joy on McCain's face.
Six years ago, the talented Sea Dogs defenceman from Strathroy was a 12-year-old kid running on the John Labatt Centre ice in London to hug his father Jacques, an assistant coach on the Memorial Cup-winning host Knights team.
"It feels a lot like it did in 2005," he recalled, "except this time, I'm a champion. My dad told me this was possible. It's every kid's dream to win the Memorial Cup. For junior players, it's our Stanley Cup.
"And we really wanted to win it for Scott. He's a great owner and I can't imagine going through what he did -- having to go to father's funeral -- and then coming here with us."
It wasn't easy, and neither was denying the Majors a late game-tying goal.
The Majors buzzed around Saint John overage goalie Jacob DeSerres, the former Wheat King victimized for nine Windsor Spitfires goals in last year's Cup final at Brandon, but couldn't put another one past him.
And in those frantic final minutes, Jonathan Huberdeau, the tournament MVP, found an inner calm and converted a rare two-on-one break in the dying minutes to send the Cup east.
"You do that all year (in practice)," said the potential top pick in the NHL draft next month. "I just got the pass and the goalie (J.P Anderson) went with me so I cut the other way.
That was big getting that two-goal lead back because they were coming at us. It's just a great feeling."
Huberdeau felt best for teammates like captain Mike Thomas, a fifth-year Sea Dog and big defender Simon Despres, who was the first pick in the Quebec league draft four years ago when the team wasn't very good.
Despres, struggling from bronchitis the past two weeks, opened the early scoring with a shorthanded goal.
"You want to win it for guys like that," Huberdeau said. "We'll have to wait and see who comes back next year, but this team could have a chance to do it again."
They'll have a strong shot at matching Windsor's back-to-back crowns.
Mississauga forward Justin Shugg, the former Spit, knows that feeling. Defeat, though, is new.
He fell short in his bid to become the second player in history to win three straight Cups. Robert Savard, the former Cornwall and Kitchener defenceman, still stands alone.
"We had some chances but we just didn't score enough," Shugg said. "Their goalie obviously did the job because we only got one goal (and the Majors scored no more than three in any of their five games this tournament).
"They scored shorthanded (and the Majors were 0-for-5 on the power play) so I guess special teams weren't our cup of tea."
Second-place is never easy to swallow.
Owner Eugene Melnyk and the Majors hoped to use this Cup as a springboard to establishing deeper GTA roots for junior hockey. A win would've provided a richer base of soil.
The third time wasn't the charm for Mississauga head coach Dave Cameron and captain Casey Cizikas, who couldn't avenge the Canadian world junior loss in Buffalo and falling in overtime in Game 7 of the OHL final to Owen Sound.
Despres, though, exorcised his demons from that third-period meltdown against the Russians in Buffalo.
"And we lost the league final to Moncton last year," the Pittsburgh first-rounder said. "You always want to make up for those losses. It's just a great feeling. You work hard all year for this.
"Every season, it starts as your dream."
It's like that in so many households across the country.
And for a select few of those fathers and sons, the fairy tale comes true.