Last season in the Memorial Cup finals, the Saint John Sea Dogs defeated the Missisauga St. Michaels Majors to win the most coveted trophy in junior hockey, the Memorial Cup.
This year, Saint John has had to take on the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles, Baie-Comeau Drakkar, Chicoutimi Sagueneens, and most recently, the Rimouski Oceanic to get back into the Memorial Cup finals as the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League’s representative.
Saint John is joined by the Ontario Hockey League’s champions, the London Knights, the Western Hockey League’s champions, the Edmonton Oil Kings, and the host team this year, the Shawinigan Cataractes as the four teams vying for the Memorial Cup.
Yannick Veilleux, forward for the Cataractes, Ryan Tesink and Stephen MacAulay both forwards for the Saint John’s club, are the three Blues prospects who are still pressing hard for this year’s championship.
I had the privilege to chat a big with Sea Dog’s forward, Stephen MacAulay to get an inside look at what these players go through during their run for the Memorial Cup.
BlueNote Zone – You won the Memorial Cup last year with Saint John, and your club is charging back as the “favorite” to win it again this year, does being the favorite add to the pressure’s of winning, or do you try not to focus on it?
Stephen MacAualay - I think it may add a bit of pressure, but it’s not necessarily a bad thing in our eyes. The experience we gained from last year’s championship run is so valuable this time around and I think it will help us at this year’s Memorial Cup.
BNZ – Your team was bolstered this year with the addition of Charlie Coyle, who left Boston University to join the Sea Dogs earlier this year. What has the addition of Charlie done for your team down the stretch of the regular season and into the playoffs?
SM – Hes been a heck of a player for us. He is big, strong, fast, good hands and has an NHL shot. He was the playoff MVP this year and really stepped up at times we needed him the most. He plays in all situations for our team and one of the best prospects around so we’re glad he decided to come to Saint John for the second half of the year.
BNZ – Both yourself and teammate Ryan Tesink were both drafted by the St. Louis Blues. Both of you were six round picks, you being drafted in 2010, him in 2011. Has it helped knowing that you’re both in the same organizations with both Saint John and St. Louis?
SM – It’s definitely helped with us being together. We play on the same line here in Saint John for the most part and we play well together. We both play similar styles of game and hopefully we can be playing together again someday at the pro level.
BNZ – There seems to be something about playing in the post season that you love because your game always seems to improve, and your point totals always seem to jump in the playoffs. Do you believe your style of play is better fitted for the playoffs or does you believe you have another level of your game that you can reach during the playoffs?
SM – I believe I have another level to my game when we reach the playoffs. A lot of playoff games are tight checking and it isn’t easy to make things click all the time. I try to play a hard, simple game in the playoffs and it has really been paying off with big goals and games over the last few playoff runs we’ve had. I enjoy the higher intensity of playoff hockey.
BNZ – Over your playing career thus far in juniors, you’ve proved to be a reliable two way player who can add bit of offense when needed, do you think you can translate your game to the NHL level?
SM – I believe if I were to make it to the NHL I would play a similar role as I do in junior. I enjoy killing penalties and being hard to play against so I think my game could translate well at the next level.
BNZ – Almost every player and every fan can rattle off a list of players who have had an impact on their love of the game. Who were the players you admired growing up and watching hockey?
SM – I really admired Joe Sakic when I was growing up. His leadership, talent and the respect that other players had for him are the things I really admired about him.
BNZ – Last year was a great year for Saint John’s Gatineau to win the QJMHL President’s Cup and then going on and beating Missisauga to win the Memorial Cup, what as it like as a player to lift the Memorial Cup, knowing that you had won Junior hockey’s most prized trophy?
SM – It’s truly an incredible feeling that is hard to put into words. When you hoist that trophy over your head, you feel like it doesn’t weigh a pound because you’ve worked so hard to achieve your goal. Hopefully in a couple weeks I can say the same thing with another Memorial Cup win.
BNZ – Mathieu Corbeil-Theriault has been tremendous for the Sea Dogs, setting records for most wins and shutouts in team history, yet Nathan Beaulieu has set the team record for points by a defensemen. All the while, team captain Jonathan Huberdeau has been nothing short of phenomenal all year. If you had to pick your teams MVP, who would it be?
SM – We have so many talented players here in Saint John so it is hard to pick one MVP for the year. Huberdeau missed a couple months of the year with a foot injury and while he was at the World Juniors so he didn’t put up as many points as he could have. I would give the MVP to our goaltender Mathieu Corbeil and our overage forward Danick Gauthier. He is a guy that was very underrated in previous years. He played a bigger role with guys being injured and away at World Juniors. He set a team record for goals in a season with 47, which is incredible.
BNZ – With you likely turning pro next season and jumping into the American Hockey League, what is the best memory you have of playing for the Saint John Sea Dogs?
SM – I would say winning the President’s Cup twice and winning the Memorial Cup last year would be my best memories. Like I said, hopefully I can add this year’s Memorial Cup to that list as well. My entire time here in Saint John has been amazing and I’ve made friends that will last a lifetime.
Stephen MacAulay know’s what it takes to win, he’s done it all throughout his junior career and he’s on his way to another potential championship as well.
It’s very likely MacAulay makes the jump from juniors to the the pro level this summer. Stephen will likely getting a bottom six role in Peoria next season, similar to the role Anthony Nigro has played for the Rivermen the last two seasons. A third/fourth line role with penalty killing role for with the club.
Now, however, we’ll be sitting back and watching MacAulay, Tesink, and Veilleux fight it out to be the last ones standing and have the chance to lift the Memorial Cup high over their heads as champions of the CHL and of all three junior leagues.