The Memorial Cup, first awarded in 1919, had yet to be won by a team from Atlantic Canada when the 2011 tournament began in Mississauga.
In fact, only one Atlantic team — the Moncton Wildcats — had reached the final. (Playing at home in 2006, they lost, 6-2, to the Quebec Remparts.)
The Saint John Sea Dogs, under head coach Gerard Gallant, ended the drought at the Hershey Centre on May 29, 2011, beating the host St. Michael’s Majors, 3-1.
“This means so much to Atlantic Canada,” Gallant, from Summerside, P.E.I., told Tim Wharnsby of CBC Sports. “It just shows you how much talent we have out there. We had 10 or 11 kids from Atlantic Canada on our team. That’s outstanding and it’s only going to help develop more kids.”
The Sea Dogs didn’t run away and hide in a tournament that also featured the Owen Sound Attack, of head coach Mark Reeds, and the Kris Knoblauch-coached Kootenay Ice. Seven of the tournament’s nine games were decided by one or two goals.
It began on May 20 with Saint John beating the hosts, 4-3, as Jacob DeSerres stopped 24 shots. DeSerres had started for Brandon in the final of the 2010 tournament, a game the Wheat Kings lost 9-1 to the Windsor Spitfires.
The next day, Jordan Binnington stopped 29 shots and Robby Mignardi scored twice to lead the Attack to a 5-0 victory over Kootenay.
St. Michael’s, owned by Eugene Melnyk and coached by Dave Cameron, beat the Ice, 2-1, on May 22, thanks to a Rob Flick goal at 11:51 of the third period.
Saint John went to 2-0 on May 23, as DeSerres made 47 saves and Jonathan Huberdeau scored at 17:35 of OT for a 3-2 victory over Owen Sound.
The Ice, needing a victory to avoid elimination, beat Saint John, 5-4, on Matt Fraser’s second goal, at 3:55 of overtime. Tomas Jurco scored twice for the Sea Dogs, the second one tying the game at 19:45 of the third period.
The round-robin concluded on May 25 with St. Michael’s beating Owen Sound, 3-1.
When it was sorted out, Saint John (2-1) was into the final, Mississauga (2-1) moved to the semifinal, and the other two, both 1-2, headed to a tiebreaker.
On May 26, Kootenay, getting two goals from each of Cody Eakin and Fraser, erased a 2-0 deficit as it beat the Attack, 7-3.
One day later, the Majors, with Devante Smith-Pelly scoring twice, got past the Ice, 3-1, and moved into the final against a Saint John team that enjoyed four days off between games.
On May 29, DeSerres came up with 34 saves to lead the Sea Dogs to that 3-1 victory.
“After last year I didn’t know if I would get another opportunity,” he told Wharnsby. “I’m glad I did.”
2011 Saint John Sea Dogs:
Steven Anthony, Nathan Beaulieu, Alexandre Beauregard, Gabriel Bourret, Jason Cameron, Mathieu Corbeil-Theriault, Steven Delisle, Jacob DeSerres, Simon Despres, Pierre Durepos, Kevin Gagne, Stanislav Galiev, Danick Gauthier, Eric Gelinas, Jonathan Huberdeau, Tomas Jurco, Aidan Kelly, Michael Kirkpatrick, Stephen MacAulay, Spencer MacDonald, Jordan Mock, Scott Oke, Devon Oliver-Dares, Zach Phillips, Jason Seed, Tyrone Sock, Ryan Tesink, Mike Thomas, Mike Kelly (manager), Gerard Gallant (coach).
NHL: Huberdeau was named the recipient of the Calder Memorial Trophy as Rookie of the Year following the 2012-13 season. He amasses 31 points during a lock0ut shortened 48 game season. After an 11 year playing career, Gallant has had an even more successful coaching career. Coaching stops have included Columbus, NY Islanders, Montreal Canadiens, Florida Panthers and now head coach of the expansion Vegas Golden Knights.