MISSISSAUGA, Ont. - For Nathan Beaulieu and the Saint John Sea Dogs, it was better to be lucky than good.
Beaulieu's power-play goal at 8:00 of the third period proved to be the winner as Saint John edged the Mississauga St. Michael's Majors 4-3 on Friday in the opening game of the MasterCard Memorial Cup.
Beaulieu's goal staked the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League champions to a crucial 4-2 advantage. But it was certainly a contentious one as the play was allowed to continue despite seeming to be offside.
And Beaulieu's goal was huge as Mississauga made it 4-3 when Casey Cizikas scored with the man advantage just 33 seconds later, delighting the Hershey Centre gathering of 5,429.
Predictably, Beaulieu said he didn't know if the play leading up to his goal should've been blown dead.
"I couldn't tell you," Beaulieu said. "After I just heard a lot of boos and stuff.
"You know, those are tough calls and you can't blame it on anyone.''
Mississauga head coach Dave Cameron was much more to the point.
"Yes," he said when asked if the offside call was missed. "Mistakes happen.
"They (game officials) made a mistake.''
But Cameron also said Mississauga's lack of discipline played a role in the loss as Saint John finished the game 3-of-8 on the power play. The Majors were 2-of-7 with the man advantage.
"We lost our composure," Cameron said. "No doubt about it."
The contest was predictably a tight one between two clubs who were not only making their first tournament appearance but were among the CHL's best clubs this season. The Sea Dogs came into this event as the top-ranked junior squad, two spots ahead of a Majors team playing its first game since a heart-breaking 3-2 overtime loss to the Owen Sound Attack at the Hershey Centre on Sunday in the Ontario Hockey League final.
"We weren't so much the better team but more we got a couple of bounces," Beaulieu said. "We didn't play our best game at all and I give full credit to them for working so hard.
"Holding that one-goal lead wasn't easy and I thought we did that real well so credit to our guys. Our special teams were really good and were our biggest keys to the win.''
Saint John head coach Gerard Gallant agreed.
"We played OK," he said. "We competed hard and took advantage of the power play.
"Anytime you get three power-play goals you have a good chance for the win. We can play a better game than that . . . but to win your first game of the Memorial Cup is important."
Tomas Jurco, Michael Kirkpatrick and Jonathan Huberdeau had the other goals for the Sea Dogs, who tied a QMJHL record with 58 wins this season and posted a perfect 10-0 road record during their playoff run.
Cizikas finished with two goals while Devante Smith-Pelly had the other for Mississauga, which was the OHL's top defensive team this season, allowing just 170 goals in 68 games
Saint John wasted little time opening the scoring, with Jurco beating Mississauga's J.P. Anderson on the backhand on a partial breakaway just 1:44 into the game. The goal came after Sea Dogs' goaltender Jacob DeSerres made a nice stop on a hard drive from Cizikas.
But the Mississauga captain tied the score at 7:07, corralling a DeSerres rebound off a point shot before Smith-Pelly's power-play goal at 13:55 put the Majors ahead. But Saint John countered with a power-play goal of its own from Huberdeau late in the period to make it 2-2.
Kirkpatrick registered Saint John's second power-play goal at 6:58 of the second to put the Sea Dogs ahead 3-2.
The Majors had a great chance to tie it early in the third when they had a two-man power play. And they came close to doing so as Cizikas fired a wrist shot that was deflected off the post.
Saint John outshot Mississauga 31-27 but Gallant felt DeSerres was the difference in the game for the Sea Dogs.
"He made some huge saves especially on their power play," Gallant said of his goaltender. "He was solid.
"He was probably the difference for us."
Tournament action continues Saturday when Owen Sound takes on the Western Hockey League-champion Kootenay Ice in the tournament opener for both teams.
Kootenay finished the regular season fourth in the Eastern Conference but posted a 16-3 playoff record en route to capturing its third WHL crown. The Ice went winless in its first Memorial Cup appearance in 2000 before winning it all in 2002.
Owen Sound finished eighth in the CHL's top-10 ranking and posted a 16-6 playoff record in earning the first OHL title in its 22-year history after relocating from Guelph, Ont. Head coach Mark Reeds was named the league's top coach after guiding the Attack to a 46-17-5 record, second only to St. Mike's (53-13-2).