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DeSerres solid in goal, leads Sea Dogs to Memorial Cup victory over Majors

MISSISSAUGA, Ont. - The second time was the charm for Jacob DeSerres.

DeSerres stopped 34 shots to lead the Saint John Sea Dogs to a 3-1 Memorial Cup final win over the Mississauga St. Michael's Majors, disappointing the Hershey Centre sellout of 5,429.

The 21-year-old was appearing in his second straight Memorial Cup final. Last year he helped the Brandon Wheat Kings reach the title game before surrendering nine goals in a loss to the Windsor Spitfires.

But the Calgary native was a rock for Sea Dogs, who stormed out to a 2-0 first-period lead before DeSerres stood tall to help his club withstand a spirited comeback bid by the hometown Majors.

Simon Despres, Zack Phillips and Jonathan Huberdeau scored for Saint John (3-1), which became the first Maritime team to win the Memorial Cup.

Riley Brace replied for Mississauga (3-2).

Saint John came out strong in the first period, outshooting the Majors 11-9. Despres' unassisted short-handed goal just 2:24 into the first effectively quieted the big crowd.

DeSerres made two stellar saves after Saint John killed Mississauga's power play, and that turned out to be important as Phillips scored at 13:17 to make it 2-0. The score flattered the Majors, considering the Sea Dogs didn't score on four first-period power plays.

But Mississauga outplayed the Sea Dogs in the second, outshooting them emphatically 15-6. After Maxim Kitsyn's shot went off the post early, Brace finally gave the crowd something to cheer about at 14:41 of the second as he cut the Sea Dogs' lead in half.

DeSerres was again sharp late in the third when the Majors, who went 0-for-5 on the power play, pressed for the tying goal. That was huge as Huberdeau cemented the victory, converting on a 2-on-1 with Phillips at 16:17.

Even then, DeSerres came up big afterwards, stopping Devante Smith-Pelly from close in to keep it a two-goal game.

The Sea Dogs, the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League champions, came into the tournament as the CHL's top-ranked team and wasted little time booking their spot into the final. After opening the event with a controversial 4-3 win over St. Mike's — the winning goal came the result of a missed offside call — Saint John qualified for the final with a 3-2 victory over the Owen Sound Attack.

But there were questions of whether Saint John would be rusty in the final considering they had five days off before facing Mississauga.

The loss was a bitter one for Majors' head coach Dave Cameron and captain Casey Cizikas. Cameron was the coach and Cizikas a player with the Canadian junior team that blew a 3-0 lead in dropping a heart-breaking 5-3 decision to Russia in the gold medal game in Buffalo, N.Y., in January.

Then three months later, the Majors squandered leads of 2-0 and 3-2 in dropping the Ontario Hockey League final to Owen Sound with an overtime loss in the seventh and deciding game.

Coming up short in both the OHL and Memorial Cup finals tarnished what was a stellar season for the Majors. They led the OHL with 53 wins in 68 regular-season games, scoring the most goals (287) and allowing the fewest (170).

Their 53-13-2 record put them in third place in the CHL rankings behind Saint John and the Western Hockey League's Saskatoon Blades.

DeSerres was instrumental in Saint John's playoff success. He had a 12-3 record, 2.00 goals-against average and .916 save percentage in the QMJHL playdowns.

He started Saint John's first two tournament games, stopping 71-of-76 shots (.934 save percentage) with a 2.18 GAA heading into the final.

After losing last year's QMJHL final to arch-rival Moncton, the Sea Dogs came back with a vengeance, posting a league-best 58-7-1-2 record and tying the league's single-season wins record.

And after dispatching Gatineau in six games to win the President's Cup title, the Sea Dogs marched into the Memorial Cup with a 10-0 road playoff record.