After finishing the season as the hottest team in the league, the Saint John Sea Dogs kick off the playoffs tonight, when they face off against the ninth-ranked Rimouski Oceanic.
The puck drops at 7 p.m. at TD Station.
After "a bit of an underwhelming first half," the Sea Dogs managed to finished the season in third place in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League standings, said Jamie Tozer, the editor of Station Nation, a blog dedicated to all things Sea Dogs.
Tozer said the team made some significant mid-season trades, with some "huge adds to an already good mix," to come up with the recipe for success.
"They've been one of the best teams, not only in the league, but in the entire country since the holiday break. So, they're really, really coming into the playoffs hot."
Very hot, in fact. Fifteen-wins-in-a-row hot.
"It doesn't happen very often," said Tozer. "This is the longest streak in the league this season."
To put that into perspective, Tozer said it ties "the third-longest winning streak this team's ever had — and they've had some really good teams over the years. So this is pretty impressive."
With a strong finish to the season, Tozer said the team definitely deserves its number three slot, and "maybe if the season was a little bit longer, they might have been able to catch Charlottetown and Quebec."
Against the Oceanic, Tozer said the Sea Dogs "are definitely the heavy favourites going into that series and I think the biggest thing for the Sea Dogs is they just need to focus on playing their game."
He said they'll need to focus on offence.
"Rimouski is a fairly good defensive team. They don't allow a lot of goals and they don't allow a lot of shots. So if I'm Saint John, I'm focusing on that."
The Sea Dogs are also the host team for this year's Memorial Cup, the national championship of the Canadian Hockey League, which is made up of the Ontario Hockey League (OHL), Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) and Western Hockey League (WHL).
The event is a four-team round-robin tournament between the champions of each of the three leagues, plus the host team.
Tozer said that often puts a lot of pressure on a team, but he says the Sea Dogs have already proven they perform well under pressure.
"Given how they played in the second half, I think they're going to handle it pretty well. I think they've kind of adapted to dealing with that pressure. And, I don't think it's going to be a huge story."
Trevor Georgie, the Sea Dogs' president and general manager, said he's looking forward to seeing how far his team can go.
"It's a group that has eight NHL-drafted players, 13 players that have been to NHL training camps, which is most in the country. And so I'm really excited for these young men to show us what they can do."
In the hockey world, the Memorial Cup is a huge deal, said Georgie.
"It's most likely a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," he said. "It's never been held in Saint John before and typically doesn't get held in cities of our size."
Georgie said it's important to keep the age of the players in perspective. Despite their height and often-full beards, they range in age from 16 to 20, "so they're very young," he said.
"For so many of these players, even those that do make it to the NHL, they will have these moments for the rest of their lives."
Georgie said the Sea Dogs often punch above their weight. For example, when the current NHL season started, he said the Sea Dogs had the most alumni playing of any of the QMJHL's 18 teams.
Also, Georgie said the Sea Dogs had the best second-half record of any of the CHL's 60 teams.
More than just hockey
There are several other events being held in Saint John as part of the 10-day-long Memorial Cup, starting on June 18 with a ball-hockey tournament and a live music concert hosted by Area 506 at its new Container Village on the waterfront.
The Port City Party will feature live performances, including The Strumbellas, Alan Doyle, Classified, and Matt Mays. Since space is limited, Memorial Cup pass holders will be given priority admission.
Opening day of the Memorial Cup will end with a fireworks display.