Spitfires hold on to beat Sea Dogs in Mastercard Memorial Cup opener

Jeremy Bracco's goal helped the Windsor Spitfires edge the Saint John Sea Dogs 3-2 in the opening game of the Mastercard Memorial Cup.

WINDSOR, Ont. — Jeremy Bracco had a goal and an assist as the host Windsor Spitfires opened the 2017 Mastercard Memorial Cup with a 3-2 victory over the Saint John Sea Dogs on Friday.

Jeremiah Addison and Aaron Luchuk scored the others for the Spitfires (1-0-0), who got a 20-save outing from Michael DiPietro.

Nathan Noel and Thomas Chabot scored for the Sea Dogs (1-0-0), the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League champions. Callum Booth stopped 20-of-23 shots in defeat.

Windsor went 44 days between games after being eliminated in the first round of the Ontario Hockey League playoffs, but the rest looked to be a benefit rather than a negative for the tournament’s hosts.

Eight of the last nine Memorial Cup champions have won their league titles, with the 2012 host Shawinigan Cataractes being the last club to lift the trophy after bowing out in their league playoffs. The Spitfires are trying to buck that trend.

Saint John nearly opened the scoring five minutes into the game when the puck bounced off the endboards to an open Samuel Dove-McFalls at the side of the net, but DiPietro got his glove hand up to take away a sure goal.

Addison made it 1-0 Windsor with 4:03 to play in the first, snapping a quick shot blocker side on Booth on the power play after taking a pass from Bracco, who was below the goal line.

Both teams came out throwing the body in the second and it took almost six minutes for either side to record a shot on net, an easy one turned away by DiPietro.

The physical play continued through the second and neither side gave up much in terms of scoring opportunities until Bracco got in alone on Booth at the 15:05 mark. But the puck bounced over his stick, negating any real threat.

Bracco made up for it soon after for a 2-0 lead. The Toronto Maple Leafs prospect beat his defender wide and, after being stopped on his first try by Booth, put home his own rebound with 1:43 to go in the period.

Shots were 19-13 Spitfires through 40 minutes.

Booth kept it a two-goal game early in the third when he stoned Logan Brown from in close on a rebound, but his team didn’t help him out much and less than a minute later it was a 3-0 Windsor lead.

Defenceman Mikhail Sergachev put a point shot on net that Luchuk tipped past the screened Sea Dogs netminder with 15:12 to go.

The Sea Dogs finally got on the board when Noel beat a screened DiPietro. Then Chabot made a game of it with another just 1:04 later with less than three minutes remaining in regulation and Booth on the bench for the extra attacker.

Saint John kept up the intensity for the final two minutes in search of the tying goal, but couldn’t find the equalizer.

Notes: The Ontario Hockey League champion Erie Otters and Western Hockey League champions open their tournament Saturday.