LEWISTON — The run is over.

Stephen MacAuley drove his stick through a pile of players and shoveled the puck past goaltender Andrey Makarov with 2:52 remaining in regulation to lift the Saint John Sea Dogs to a wild 6-5 victory over the Lewiston Maineiacs to close out the teams’ best-of-seven Quebec Major Junior Hockey League semifinal series 4-0.

MacAuley, a third-line grinder for the Sea Dogs, was also the hero for Saint John in overtime of Game 1 last Friday.

“He’s a battler,” Saint John coach Gerard Gallant said of MacAuley. “He’s a third-line guy that kills every penalty for us, plays the defensive side of the puck as good as anyone in our league. He’s one of those guys who knows how to score the ugly goals, and that’s what he did (Wednesday).”

After a wacky first pair of periods that left the teams knotted at 4-4, former Lewiston defenseman Eric Gelinas gave the Sea Dogs their first lead of the game 4:35 into the third period on a blast from the top of the right circle on the power play.

That was short-lived, as Pierre-Olivier Morin got a stick on a long, slow shot from Sam Carrier from the right point and tipped the puck through goaltender Jacob DeSerres’ pads and into the cage.

“We knew they’d come back; we knew they were hungry,” Gallant said. “I knew it was going to be a tight game. I just didn’t figure it was going to be a 6-5 game.”

MacAuley’s winner put an end to a bit of pressure from the Maineiacs, who found an extra jump in their legs in the final frame.

“I was really pleased that we didn’t back down, and we never quit,” Maineiacs coach J.F. Houle said. “We have a lot of guys that work hard and care in that locker room. They played with passion and scoring right after they scored in the third period, that was big. I wish we could have done the same thing after their last one.”

The win clinched for Saint John a second consecutive berth in the President’s Cup final.

“Hopefully it’s going to be real good, and we’d like the result to be different this time,” Gallant said. “We’re going to have to work for it, and we’re going to have to play a good team no matter who we play.”

Eric Gelinas, Zack Phillips, Jonathan Huberdeau, Scott Oke and Nathan Beaulieu also scored for the Sea Dogs.

In his first career playoff start, Andrey Makarov stopped 31 of the 37 shots he faced for Lewiston.

“Andrey came in in relief twice and he played real well,” Houle said. (Nick) Champion played well in the first and second series and he played pretty good, too, in the beginning, but he looked tired. I felt like he was getting a little tired, so I decided to go with Mak and give him a shot. I thought he played well. They’re a skilled team, and if you give them an inch, they’ll take it.”

On the other end, the Sea Dogs used both goaltenders. Mathieu Corbeil started, allowed two goals on two shots and Gallant immediately replaced him with DeSerres.

In his first bobble of the series, Corbeil misplayed a hard dump-in from Olivier Dame-Malka and saw the puck kick off the blade behind the cage into the right circle. Cameron Critchlow jumped on the loose puck and hammered it into the empty net 1:21 into the contest.

Corbeil’s night ended 1:22 later when Lewiston again caught the keeper out of position. This time, Sam Carrier’s shot from the point deflected to Alex Zafiris, who potted his third of the playoffs to give the Maineiacs a 2-0 lead on two shots.

Gallant pulled Corbeil in favor of DeSerres.

Lewiston’s momentum could easily have disappeared 29 seconds later when Kevin Gagne wripped a wrister high over Makarov’s glove side and shattered the pane of glass in front of the goal judge, causing a 12-minute delay while arena staff repaired the damage. But the Maineiacs kept pressing.

And scoring.

Olivier Dame-Malka slipped a wrister through traffic on a feed across the zone from Critchlow and beat DeSerres five-hole for the Maineiacs’ third goal on as many shots.

“After the first five minutes, I was thinking, ‘Man, this is turning around, we’re starting to get some luck,” Houle said. “They’re a good team, they found a way to come back and win again.”

Saint John got one back right on a faceoff to Makarov’s right when Zack Phillips tipped the puck to himself and slipped the puck five-hole on Makarov.

“One thing we do know is we can score goals,” Gallant said. “We were sound asleep for the first 15 minutes probably, until the Phillips goal went in. We got embarrassed, the guys don’t like that and they showed some character.”

Saint John held the foot to the gas the rest of the first period, forcing Makarov to make several big saves on a host of different Sea Dogs skaters.

Makarov kept the Lewiston lead at two momentarily 24 seconds into the second with a dazzling glove save on Phillips from five feet out, snaring the shot with his catching glove.

Saint John did get on the board again at 1:28 on its first power play chance of the contest as Nathan Beaulieu blasted the puck from the top of the Sea Dogs’ umbrella setup and beat Makarov high glove.

“They took some penalties and we took advantage of that,” Gallant said. “I thought we got some momentum off of that. It’s OK to play hard, but when you go over the line, you get too many penalties, and that got us back in the game.”

The Maineiacs replied with another at 3:44 to go back in front by a pair. Stefan Fournier capped a tic-tac-toe play on a Saint John turnover behind the cage as Morin fed Kirill Kabanov, who relayed quickly to Fournier at the top of the crease.

Scott Oke again pulled Saint John within a goal at 5:22 on a scramble to the left of Makarov. Oke lifted the puck over the quagmire and into the cage.

The Sea Dogs capped the comeback at 13:29 of the second as Gabriel Bourret hit Jonathan Huberdeau in stride and sent the talented winger in alone. Huberdeau deked to the forehand and beat Makarov low stick side.


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