At this point, the Saint John Sea Dogs would rather play on the road.
While the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League champions didn't lose in regulation at home during the regular season, things didn't go as well in the President's Cup final.
The Sea Dogs dropped two of three at home, but swept three in Gatineau en route to a six-game victory over the Olympiques. Those wins helped Saint John post a 10-0 road record and a berth in the MasterCard Memorial Cup in Mississauga, Ont.
"We didn't lose a game on the road in the playoffs and that says a lot about our team," Sea Dogs head coach Gerard Gallant said. "We played a hell of a playoff series and our team just doesn't quit. We have a lot of character."
Playoff MVP Jonathan Huberdeau, who scored a league-leading 16 playoff goals, is the catalyst of the top line. Stanislav Galiev, whose 27 points ranked fifth in the post-season, is also a force. Over-ager Michael Kirkpatrick centered the line in Game 6 in Gatineau, but Zack Phillips can also fill that role.
Saint John's so-called checking line produced the goal that clinched a Memorial Cup berth. Alexandre Beauregard, acquired in a mid-season trade with last-place Rouyn-Noranda, scored at 15:45 of double-overtime in Game 6. The trio is rounded out by 20-year-old captain Mike Thomas and St. Louis Blues prospect Stephen MacAulay, a two-way centre who notched three points in the final.
"The key to our year has always been our depth," said Mike Kelly, associate coach and director of hockey operations. "We're a skilled team, but we have depth and we had some key injuries to some really good players, and yet we kept coming.’"
The injury bug bit the Sea Dogs especially hard up front. Vancouver Canucks prospect Steven Anthony went down with a knee injury in the first game of the final and hasn't played since. Rookie Jason Cameron, a high-energy centre, suffered a bruised kidney in Game 4 and will miss the Memorial Cup.
Phillips, who has 24 playoff points, missed the fifth and sixth games of the final with an upper-body injury, but the 18-year-old is hopeful of a return in Mississauga.
Regardless, the Sea Dogs survived no matter who went down. Slovakian winger Tomas Jurco is averaging nearly a point per game in the playoffs, while veteran centre Danick Gauthier and rookie winger Ryan Tesink offer grit and toughness. Tesink, a Saint John native, scored with 44 seconds left in double-overtime of Game 4.
The blue-line is anchored by Pittsburgh Penguins prospect Simon Despres, who played for Canada at this year's world junior championship. Nathan Beaulieu, the Dogs' top-scoring defenceman in the regular season and playoffs, quarterbacks the power play.
Eric Gelinas offers size, premier passing skills and a booming point shot. The 19-year-old has already signed an entry-level contract with the New Jersey Devils. The defence corps also includes Pierre Durepos, who hasn’t missed a game in two years.
Over-age goaltender Jacob DeSerres, who helped the host Brandon Wheat Kings to last year's Memorial Cup final, won 12 playoff games for Saint John. Backup Mathieu Corbeil-Theriault, a Columbus Blue Jackets' draft pick, has four post-season wins.
The Sea Dogs, who lost to archrival Moncton in last year's QMJHL final, came back with a vengeance, posting a 58-7-1-2 record and tying the league's single-season wins record.
"I think the experience we went through last year certainly paid dividends," Kelly said. "These kids battled so hard and they didn't give up. They seemed to enjoy the battle and that’s a big part of winning."