Sea Dogs play like defending Memorial Cup champions in defeating Oil Kings

Sunaya Sapurji
Yahoo Sports

SHAWINIGAN – Ryan Tesink’s 19th birthday started with one heck of a bash.

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Saint John needed to beat Edmonton and they came through with a convincing win. (Reuters)

It happened during the second period of the Memorial Cup round-robin game between his Saint John Sea Dogs and the Edmonton Oil Kings. Tesink was slammed into the boards hard by Edmonton Oil Kings defenceman Griffin Reinhart, who at 6-foot-4 and 202 pounds has about four inches and almost 40 pounds on the lithe winger. Minutes later, teammate Jonathan Huberdeau scored to break open a tie game en route to a 5-2 victory for the Sea Dogs’ first win of the tournament.

“For me it all turned around when Ryan Tesink got run over in the corner with a real hard hit,” said Sea Dogs head coach Gerard Gallant. “I think the guys said, ‘You know what? If that guy’s going to pay the price like that and compete the way he is at 175 pounds, [then so will we].’ I think the guys followed from there, so that was a big play even though it was a hit against us I thought that turned it around.”

Tesink was able to get in the scoring summary, too, after sealing the win with an empty-net goal.

“I didn’t get any presents (Monday) so that was a nice gift,” said the native of Saint John. “We wanted to get the win, it was a huge game.”

The defending Memorial Cup champions are now tied with the three other teams in the tournament – Edmonton, Shawinigan and London – with identical 1-1 records. It’s the first time since 1983, when the current four-team format was adopted, that all four clubs have had identical records. The Sea Dogs’ victory also guarantees that the Memorial Cup will require a tie-breaker game on Thursday night.

“It’s been pretty even so far,” said Oil Kings head coach Derek Laxdal of the tournament. “I liked our energy and I thought we had a good chance to beat Saint John. They’re an experienced team, they’ve been here before. They needed a big game and they got a big game.”

Unlike their opening 5-3 loss to London, the Sea Dogs were firing on all cylinders getting the best out of not only their top players, but their supporting cast as well. Gallant made a point to praise the line of Tesink, Stephen MacAuley and Maxime Villemaire, who brought tenacity and grit every time they were out on the ice.

“To me Tesink was one of our better players because of his energy,” said the Sea Dogs coach. “I thought (his line) did a good job of cycling down low, I thought they changed the pace of the game. They were really good and I was happy with those guys. When we’re getting that from those guys it’s a big bonus for our club, I mean they can all score and they can all battle, but I thought they turned the game around for us.”

Second-line centre Zack Phillips also contributed two goals playing with a pair of import wingers – Slovakian Tomas Jurco and Russian Stanislav Galiev – two talented offensive threats in their own right.

“I have to give all the credit to my linemates,” said Phillips. “Galiev was working pretty hard on that shift and Jurco made a nice pass, I was kind of just the beneficiary of all of it … I just stood in front and put it home.”

The mood after the victory was definitely a lighter one for the Sea Dogs, even though Jurco and Galiev have been notoriously playful with the media under what most teams would consider serious circumstances. When told about Phillips giving them credit for his success on the night, Jurco laughed.

“(Phillips) just stands there and waits for the pass,” said Jurco. “Us Europeans work hard and he’s the one that scores … I’m just kidding, but maybe next game he’ll win a battle in the corner and pass it to one of us and we’ll score. We’re just happy when anyone on our team scores those goals.”

The Phillips line definitely caused problems for the Oil Kings, using their speed and skill to create a number of good scoring opportunities. After the London loss, Gallant had noted that his team was trying to be a little too cute and fancy for his liking. And even though they came out on the winning end this time, Jurco said he didn’t try to tone down his play, even through he’s one of the most skilled magicians with the puck in the QMJHL.

“Last game it just didn’t work at all,” said Jurco of his Knight moves. “Tonight I made a couple of fancy moves as well, but they worked … I just couldn’t score. Tonight I just think we worked more, we didn’t really play any different.

“Me and (Galiev), we can’t score lately. Maybe that will come later but we’re trying really hard and we’re glad that we scored in supporting roles.”

The ice at Centre Bionest has been a story in itself since the start of the tournament with temperatures reaching into the mid-20s (Celsius) outside the rink. The CHL has enlisted the help of Mike Craig – the son of renowned Edmonton ice-maker Dan Craig – to help combat the heat and humidity inside the arena which has left players skating on slush. For Monday’s game, the arena bowl was closed off by large sheets of plastic and almost all of the glass entrance doors were boarded up by cardboard pieces to keep the sun and heat out of the building.

“I think it was a little bit better,” said Jurco of the conditions. “It still wasn’t great.

“Like (Galiev) said, ‘Ice in Russia in the summer is better than here.’ I was laughing at that.”