Mon May 23 10:48pm EDT
MISSISSAUGA — The stars from the Saint John Sea Dogs' 3-2 come-from-behind overtime win over the Owen Sound Attack, which sends Saint John directly to the championship game on Sunday:
No. 1 star: Tomas Jurco, Saint John Sea Dogs
Jurco and Stanislav Galiev turned in a performance that was a wicked burn delivered in the form of poetic irony. In a building when Don Cherry once coached junior hockey (in a matter of speaking) and refused to dress an import player, the Slovak and a Russian led an inspired comeback in a physical, well-played contest.
Jurco had a response after the Sea Dogs fell behind 2-0, coming up with one goal and one assist in regutation time. He was money in the second half of the game when Saint John pushed back. Galiev's second-period goal that got Saint John started was all Jurco. First the right wing (pictured) carried deep into the Attack zone, using a behind-the-back gambit, to initiate pressure, then made a eye-of-a-needle pass from the corner past two Attack defenders to find Galiev on the doorstep.
Jurco then scored the tying goal with 3:27 left in regulation time. On a night when Sea Dogs coach Gerard Gallant tried every line combination possible, Jurco made whoever he was with look good by association.
No. 2 star: Jordan Binnington, Owen Sound Attack
Binnington, 17, made 41 saves and forced the Sea Dogs to be absolutely perfect to beat him. He stoned Mike Kirkpatrick twice in overtime to extend the game; throughout the night, he was great with his stick and used his length well, cutting angles on Sea Dogs shooters and finding pucks amid some mad scrambles with the likes of Jonathan Huberdeau, Zack Phillips and Jurco rooting around for the precious disk.
No. 3 star: Stanislav Galiev, Saint John Sea Dogs
It's not a typo to say Sea Dogs fans worship a guy named Stan. The Washington Capitals prospect was electric by times, making the puck dance and peppering Binnington. The 19-year-old Russian scored the first Sea Dogs goal in the second period; he also didn't miss a shift after being boarded by Owen Sound's Garrett Wilson in the third period. It would be great to see that mentioned on Coach's Corner, but we won't hold our breath.
First honourable mention: Jacob DeSerres, Saint John Sea Dogs
The overage goalie finished with 47 saves and kept Saint John in the game long enough for it to make a comeback, making a spectacular diving save on Cameron Brace in the first period to prevent Owen Sound from opening a three-goal lead and also stoning Gemel Smith to maintain a one-goal margin in the third. Both Attack goals were a result of shots deflected by Sea Dogs players.
Second honourable mention: Jonathan Huberdeau, Saint John Sea Dogs
Now you know why people believe Huberdeau will be unstoppable once he hones his shot and uses it more often. The Sea Dogs star left wing, quiet for much of the night, went top cheddar for the game-winning goal after 17 minutes 35 seconds of sudden-victory hockey that was almost all end-to-end. Some guys just know how to write the ending.
Third honourable mention: Andrew Shaw, Owen Sound Attack
Prior to the game, Shaw spoke of how the Attack would miss injured centre Joey Hishon for reasons beyond the obvious, goals and assist. The Belleville, Ont., native, who wasn't named the Ontario league's hardest-working player at the end of the regular season for nothing, took it upon himself to replace Hishon in ways both big and small. He contributed a goal (a tip-in) and an assist, while also winning some big faceoffs (including one at the end of the first period) and helping kill penalties.
Entertainment value: A+.
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet (photo: CHL Images).