© Photo Special to The Guardian By Katelin Dean/Canadaeast News
Charlottetown Islanders’ Alexis Pépin, left, and Guillaume Rioux-Legault chase after Saint John Sea Dogs’ Jason Cameron, a native of Clyde River, P.E.I., during Sunday afternoon’s game at Harbour Station.
SAINT JOHN, N.B. — The Charlottetown Islanders remain undefeated in the early stages of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League season.
The latest win came on Sunday afternoon over the Saint John Sea Dogs at Harbour Station, where 2,536 fans watched 65 minutes of hockey and a nine-round shootout. The decisive marker came from an unlikely source in defenceman Troy Vance, whose low shot beat Sebastien Auger on the blocker side to seal the 3-2 victory.
“I was biting my nails when (the shootout) was going back and forth,’’ Vance said. “As soon as the coach said my name, I was thinking I had a chance to end it.’’
Vance said his only other shootout opportunity came when he played for the Victoriaville Tigres. But he missed in that contest, which unfolded in front of a hostile crowd at the Colisee Pepsi against the Quebec Remparts.
“That’s one way to break it in, in front of 15,000 fans,’’ Vance said. “I got that one out of the way.’’
Vance’s tenure with the Tigres includes other Harbour Station flashbacks, such as the entertaining playoff series in 2011.
“This is probably one of my favourite buildings to play in,’’ Vance said. “This (building) kind of helped me make my mark the year I got drafted when we had that battle against Saint John in 2011. It’s always been a fun barn to play in, so I always look forward to coming here.’’
The six-foot-five Vance is part of Charlottetown’s bulky blue-line. Six of seven Charlottetown defencemen are six-foot-one or taller. The defence corps also includes six-foot-four New York Rangers prospect Ryan Graves.
“It definitely helps to have size, but we’re pretty mobile,’’ Vance said. “You have to have both for it to be effective. We’re just sticking to the game plan and playing simple hockey.
“Everybody is buying in. There are some lapses, but we bounce right back. This team is resilient and we never give up.’’
Daniel Sprong and Yan-Pavel Laplante scored in regulation for the Islanders (4-0-0-0), while Eric Brassard made 34 saves and stopped seven of nine in the shootout in his first game of the season. Marcus Cuomo and Nathan Noel replied for the Sea Dogs (2-1-0-1), while Auger stopped 38 shots and six of nine in the shootout.
“I thought we played well,’’ Charlottetown head coach Gordie Dwyer said. “I thought we had the better of the chances during the game and I thought we followed our game plan and played a solid 65 minutes.’’
Sunday’s rough-and-tumble battle sets the stage for Friday night’s rematch at the Eastlink Centre.
“We have a close-nit group and we have good character in our room,’’ Sea Dogs coach Mike Kelly said. “It’s just a matter of those (young) guys understanding and believing that they’re capable of playing in this league, and having some level of success in this league. Once we get more confidence, we’ll get going.’’
Cuomo scored from close range on the power play at 9:22 of the first period, giving Saint John a 1-0 lead. Less than three minutes later, Sprong’s screen shot on the power play evened the affair.
Laplante scored with 8:10 left in the second period to give Charlottetown a 2-1 lead, but Noel notched the equalizer 52 seconds later, tipping in Jeremy Doucet’s point shot.
SAINT JOHN, N.B. - Sunday’s Quebec Major Junior Hockey League summary from Harbour Station:
Charlottetown 3 at Saint John 2 (SO)
1. Saint John, Cuomo 1 (Anderson, Cooper) 9:22 pp
2. Charlottetown, Sprong 1 (Cortese, Beran) 12:12 pp
Penalties - Nevins C (fighting), 2:06; Walter SJ (fighting), 2:06; Kennedy C (roughing), 7:59; Pépin C (checking from behind), 7:59; Highmore SJ (roughing), 7:59; Abbott SJ (boarding), 10:25; Beran C (roughing), 19:32; Graves C (holding), 19:32; Dove-McFalls SJ (roughing), 19:32.
Penalties - Beaton C (tripping), 4:47; Dove-McFalls SJ (interference), 10:00; Zilbert SJ (slashing), 15:12; Beran C (unsportmanlike conduct), 20:00; Cuomo SJ (unsportmanlike conduct), 20:00.
3. Charlottetown, Laplante 2 (Laliberté, Kielly) 11:50
4. Saint John, Noel 2 (Doucet, Dove-McFalls) 12:42
Penalties - Graves C (interference), 3:31; Laliberté C (high-sticking), 4:35.
Penalties - Brassard C (delay of game), 1:36.
Charlottetown 3 (Pépin no goal, Sprong no goal, Kennedy no goal, Bursey no goal, Beran goal, Kielly no goal, Laplante no goal, Cortese goal, Vance goal)
Saint John 2 (Smallman no goal, Noel no goal, Anderson no goal, Brown no goal, Highmore goal, Donaghey no goal, Cooper no goal, Zilbert goal, Cuomo no goal).
Shots on goal
Charlottetown 14 13 9 4 - 40
Saint John 12 6 11 7 - 36
Power Play - Charlottetown 1-3; Saint John 1-6.
Goalies - Charlottetown, Brassard 1-0-0-0 (36 shots-34 saves). Saint John, Auger 1-0-0-1 (40 shots-38 saves).
Attendance - 2,536.
Referees - Jonathan Langille, Brad Mills.
Linesmen - John MacDonnell, Andy Fleck.