CHICOUTIMI – Matthew Highmore scored the eventual game-winning goal late in the first period and capped off his game with an empty-netter, as the Saint John Sea Dogs doubled up the Chicoutimi Sagueneens, 4-2, Saturday at Centre Georges-Vezina.
Bokondji Imama and Joe Veleno also found the net for Saint John (38-13-3-1) while captain Spencer Smallman contributed two assists.
Vincent Lapalme and Nicolas Roy responded for Chicoutimi (32-21-2-2).
Imama scored the game’s opening goal on a power play with the first shot of the afternoon.
Just 85 seconds into the game, the overager took a pass in the left circle and snapped a heavy wrist shot over the blocker of Julio Billia in the Sagueneens’ goal.
The home side tied it ninety seconds later on its first shot when Lapalme ripped a wrister from the right circle that snuck past the right side of Callum Booth and into the goal.
Saint John regained the lead with six minutes left in the period.
The puck bounced to Bailey Webster in the high slot. The veteran blueliner rifled a wrist shot that Veleno deflected from the left side of the crease, past Billia’s blocker.
Highmore made it a 3-1 game with 23.6 seconds left in the period.
The Sea Dogs won a faceoff in the left circle and Thomas Chabot sent a shot from the left point that Highmore tipped on goal. Billia made the initial stop, but he was unable to pounce on the rebound before Highmore tapped it into an open cage.
Saint John had six of the seven shots recorded by the two teams in the opening period.
There were no goals in the second, thanks in part to a key save by Booth on just the second shot he had faced in the game.
More than four minutes into the frame, Lapalme was awarded a penalty shot after being taken down on a partial breakaway.
The 17-year-old forward tried to beat Booth with a wrist shot from the slot, but the goaltender flashed the leather in his catching glove and made the stop.
The two teams combined for only nine shots in the second period.
The Sags earned a power play with seven minutes to go in the third and pulled Billia to make it a two-man advantage. They did not score, prompting Billia to return to the crease as part of a Chicoutimi line change as play continued.
Roy cut the Sea Dog lead to 3-2 with two-and-a-half minutes remaining, pouncing on a turnover near the left side of the net and backhanding a shot past the blocker of a surprised Booth.
Highmore wrapped up the scoring with an empty net goal with 21.3 seconds to go.
Booth got the win with 17 saves. Billia made 16 saves in a losing cause and was awarded second star.
Imama’s goal and assist made him first star while Chicoutimi forward Samuel Houde was named third star with one assist in front of 3,040 fans in attendance.
The Sea Dogs’ next home game is Wednesday, February 22nd, at 7 p.m. against the Acadie-Bathurst Titan at Harbour Station. Tickets are available at the Harbour Station Box Office, or fans can save money and buy online.
Written by Tim Roszell