SAINT JOHN – Sixteen players recorded at least one point as the Saint John Sea Dogs crushed the Rimouski Oceanic, 9-3, Friday at Harbour Station.
Mathieu Joseph led Saint John (42-13-5-1) with a goal and four assists while Matthew Highmore added a goal and three helpers. Highmore’s generosity made him the new all-time leader in assists in team history with 155, besting the previous mark of 153 held by Jonathan Huberdeau.
Kyle Ward netted a pair of goals with Thomas Chabot, Joe Veleno, Bokondji Imama, Julien Gauthier and Spencer Smallman also finding the net in the club’s third straight win.
Charle-Edouard D’Astous, Tyler Boland and Denis Mikhnin responded for Rimouski (24-33-5-0), which have lost five games in a row.
The Sea Dogs buried three goals in the first period in a 2:30 span starting more than twelve minutes into the game.
First, Joseph danced in on the left wing and lost the puck in the circle. Chabot followed up and rifled a wrist shot past the glove of goalie Charles-Olivier Levesque.
Sixty-five seconds later, Veleno took a pass in the slot for a short breakaway and stuffed it under Levesque to double the lead. The net became dislodged as the play unfolded, prompting an official review, but the goal stood.
A short time later, Highmore found Imama inside the left circle. The Tampa Bay Lightning prospect rifled a wrist shot past Levesque’s glove to make it a 3-0 game.
Joseph extended the lead three minutes into the second, taking a drop pass in the slot and whipping a wrister just under the cross bar.
But the visitors got on the board twenty seconds later when a scramble near the Saint John net saw the puck pushed into the high slot. D’Astous fired a shot that got through the legs of Callum Booth.
Gauthier got that one back on a two-man advantage near the eight-minute mark of the second.
The Carolina Hurricanes’ first-rounder took a backdoor feed in the left circle and deposited a wrist shot beyond the reach of a sprawling Levesque.
Boland kept the back-and-forth period going with a strike a couple of minutes later.
The league’s leading scorer carried the puck on the right side during a 2-on-1, and his attempted pass deflected off of a Sea Dog defenceman and past Booth’s blocker.
Saint John answered on the very next shift when Nathan Noel fed a pass from behind the goal line on the left wing side to Smallman in the bottom of the circle. The Sea Dog captain, who tied the franchise’s all-time record for games played in his 288th contest, whistled a wrist shot under Levesque’s glove to make it 6-2.
An Oceanic 3-on-2 produced a tip-in goal by Mikhnin with three minutes to go in the period.
Ward gave Saint John its four-goal lead back a half-minute later, taking a pass at the top of the crease and sliding the puck through the legs of Levesque.
The 19-year-old Ward became the Sea Dogs’ only multiple goal-getter on the night five minutes into the third when a shot from the left side on a sharp angle snuck under Levesque’s left leg.
Highmore wrapped up the scoring with a power play goal with eight minutes to go.
The Dartmouth-native, who agreed to a contract with the Chicago Blackhawks this week, stood off the left side of the crease where Joseph found him with a pass from the right circle for an easy tap-in.
Booth made 19 saves for the win. Levesque turned aside 32 shots in the loss.
Joseph and Highmore took first and second stars, respectively. Bailey Webster earned third star with an assist and a +5 rating in front of 4,593 fans in attendance.
Saint John’s next game is Sunday, March 5th, at 3 p.m. against the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles at Harbour Station. Tickets are available at the Harbour Station Box Office, or fans can save money and buy online.
Written by Tim Roszell