February 27, 2010 - Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) - Saint John Sea Dogs
ROUYN-NORANDA, QC --- The Saint John Sea Dogs wrapped up a highly-successful three game road trip in style on Saturday afternoon, earning a thrilling 6-5 comeback win over the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies at Dave Keon Arena.
In an epic back-and-forth battle between division leaders, the Sea Dogs scored in the final minute of regulation to force overtime prior to laying claim to victory by way of the shootout. Saint John returns to south western New Brunswick having earned six points in their most recent three-game trek through the province of Quebec. .
Mike Hoffman netted a hat trick for the Sea Dogs in Saturday\'s hard-fought road win, breaking Scott Howes\' team record for goals in a season in the process. The Ottawa Senators prospect has now found the back of the net 43 times this year with six games remaining on the Sea Dogs\' schedule. Hoffman also converted on his shootout attempt on Saturday, as did import winger Tomas Jurco.
Nick Petersen and Michael Kirkpatrick both scored for Saint John during regulation play in their final non-Maritime game of the regular season, while Gabriel O\'Connor, Jérôme Leduc, J-S Bérubé, Christophe Losier, and Gabriel Levesque each tallied markers for Rouyn-Noranda in a losing effort.
Sophomore Sea Dogs goaltender Karel St-Laurent outdueled his counterpart (Nicholas Champion: 27 saves, 0-for-2 in shootout) to pick up his 25th career victory, making 37 saves on 42 shots faced on the day prior to going 2-for-2 in the decisive shootout segment of the contest. St-Laurent is now 8-0 in shootouts for his career, while Saint John is 9-0 on the season in games which reach the 65 minute mark.
The home team got off to a quick start on Saturday, as Gabriel O\'Connor ripped a high snap shot past St-Laurent\'s glove hand to put Rouyn-Noranda up 1-0 in the second minute of play. Jérôme Leduc gave the Huskies a two-goal lead at the 6:29 mark of the first period, finishing off an impressive down-ice rush by beating St-Laurent on a nifty deke prior to tucking home his 20th tally of the year.
Mike Hoffman then reduced the visitors\' deficit to one on a near-mid-stanza power play, launching a subsonic cruise missile of a slap shot from the point that rocketed to the back of Rouyn-Noranda\'s net and gave the superstar sniper the 41st goal of his overage campaign. Team Captain Mike Thomas then bested Christophe Losier in a vigorous bout of fisticuffs in Saint John\'s zone, further adding to the visitors\' surging momentum.
A crease-hovering Nick Petersen netted the tying goal at the 11:43 mark of the opening frame, burying a juicy rebound past Champion\'s outstretched right pad to make his 37th goal of 2009-10 of the man-up variety. The Sea Dogs then killed off a pair of penalties to keep things all square on the scoreboard as Saturday\'s showdown reached the twenty minute mark.
Rouyn-Noranda retook the lead late in period number two, with J-S Bérubé jamming a loose puck across the Saint John goal line at the end of a lengthy scramble in Sea Dogs territory.
A long-range wrist shot of the stick of Mike Hoffman re-tied the match up at three apiece 0:39 into the third period, with Michael Kirkpatrick putting Saint John up 4-3 on a wraparound goal just 17 seconds later. The Huskies then pulled even courtesy of an odd-man rush which culminated in a goal by Gabriel Levesque at the 6:28 mark of regulation\'s final frame.
Rouyn-Noranda struck in transition to take a 5-4 lead, with Christophe Losier burying a rebound produced by a Pier-Luc Giguere shot to improve his 2009-10 goals total to 13 at the 15:01 mark of the third. With 44 seconds remaining in regulation and with Karel St-Laurent on the bench in favour of an extra attacker, Mike Hoffman put the finishing touches his hat trick in dramatic fashion. The 20-year old offensive dynamo fired a seeing-eye backhand shot through traffic and Champion\'s pads to tie things up at five, forcing overtime on his record-setting 43rd marker of the season.
After five minutes of extra time solved nothing, Saturday\'s showdown went to a winner-take-all breakaway contest. Saint John\'s first two shooters (Hoffman & Jurco) both beat Champion on their attempts, while St-Laurent stymied Sergey Ostapchuk and Jérôme Leduc to complete the spectacular come-from-behind road victory.
Up next for the league-leading Sea Dogs (51-10-1-0) is a Wednesday night home game versus the P.E.I. Rocket (puck drop: 7pm). Special $5 upper bowl seats are available for this match, which is being sponsored by Irwin Industrial Tools. Tickets to all upcoming Sea Dogs home games can be obtained by calling the Harbour Station Box Office at (506) 657-1234, or by visiting www.tickets.harbourstation.ca.