MISSISSAUGA, Ont. - Jacob DeSerres says he never really believed in fairy tales.
He does now.
DeSerres stopped 34 shots to lead the Saint John Sea Dogs to a 3-1 MasterCard Memorial Cup final win over the Mississauga St. Michael's Majors on Sunday night, disappointing the Hershey Centre sellout crowd 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.
He didn't let a chance to atone for that drubbing pass him by. Appearing in the last game of his junior career, DeSerres was outstanding for the Sea Dogs after they stormed out to a 2-0 first-period lead.
The hometown Majors caught fire the final two periods, controlling the play and outshooting Saint John 26-14 but could only muster a second-period goal.
"It really does feel like a fairy tale," a calm and reserved DeSerres said, his championship cap visibly drenched in sweat. "After last year I never imagined I'd get another opportunity at it with just one more year left of major junior, but I did.
"I'm so happy everyone took advantage of it.''
DeSerres looked more stunned than happy at the final buzzer, gloving a loose puck, then standing rigid like a statue in his net. His teammates were much more emotional, enthusiastically mobbing their goaltender as part of their post-game celebrations.
"I don't know what I was thinking,'' DeSerres said with a chuckle. "I hadn't heard the buzzer, I was just playing it out.
"But I didn't know (what to do). I was so excited and so happy but didn't show it, it was all inside.''
Simon Despres and Zack Phillips scored first-period goals to stake Saint John (3-1) to its early lead as the Sea Dogs became the first team from the Atlantic provinces to win the title.
Riley Brace replied in the second for Mississauga (3-2), to get the enthusiastic crowd back into it.
That inspired the Majors, who controlled the play until Jonathan Huberdeau converted a 2-on-1 break at 16:17 of the third to cement the Sea Dogs' first Memorial Cup title in their six-year history.
Huberdeau, who had six points in four games, was named the tournament's most valuable player.
DeSerres was the model of calm throughout the game, especially over the final two periods when his teammates played more not to lose than to win.
Sea Dogs head coach Gerard Gallant said his squad was buoyed by the play of its over-age goaltender.
"He paid a price last year when he faced that good Windsor team but he learned a lot from that," Gallant said. "I thought he was calm tonight, a little too calm at times, but he was outstanding.
"I can't say we didn't panic because there was a lot of panic. I kept telling our guys the way they were coming at us we were going to get another goal and sure enough Huberdeau gets a chance and buries it. He didn't have a lot of chances . . . but he gets that one and that was the hockey game there.''
Captain Mike Thomas said with DeSerres standing tall in goal, he never doubted the Sea Dogs would score the insurance goal.
"Jacob made some phenomenal saves," Thomas said. "He kept us in the game while we weren't playing our best.
"It was just a matter of time that (third goal) would come if we kept playing our game. That was our focus."
Yet even after Huberdeau's goal, the Majors (a dismal 0-for-5 on the power play) continued to press, with DeSerres forced to make a huge stop on Devante Smith-Pelly from close in to keep it a two-goal game.
"He was real good tonight," Majors coach and GM Dave Cameron said of DeSerres. "That's a real good hockey team.
"They're well coached, they're a class organization and to beat them you have to work hard and execute, which we did to a degree, and get some luck and breaks and we didn't. We weren't able to find a way to score."
The Sea Dogs, champions of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, came into the tournament as the CHL's top-ranked team and wasted little time booking their spot in 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 title game with a 3-2 overtime victory over the Owen Sound Attack.
But Saint John had a five-day layoff heading into the final, prompting questions whether the club would be rusty against Mississauga.
The loss was a bitter one for Cameron and Majors captain Casey Cizikas. Cameron was the coach and Cizikas a player with the Canadian team that blew a 3-0 lead in dropping a heart-breaking 5-3 decision to Russia in the IIHF world junior gold-medal game in Buffalo, N.Y., in January.
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.
"They say losing toughens you," Cameron said. "Well right now I feel like a 10-cent steak, to tell you the truth.
"But when it's all said and done and you take the emotion out of it ... you ask that your team doesn't leave anything on the ice and my team didn't. That doesn't eliminate the sick feeling of losing, but it doesn't stay with you as long."
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 third 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 Memorial Cup 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.