The game was still in its infancy Wednesday night when Mississauga St. Michael’s Majors forward Jamie Wise hit Owen Sound Attack defenceman Geoffrey Schemitsch from behind into the boards.
Schemitsch crumpled to the ice and Wise was hauled away by a linesman for what looked to be a certain boarding call. He went to the penalty box, but after a short discussion was released from his anticipated (at least) two minutes of purgatory, leaving most of the people in the Hershey Centre – including Wise himself – confused.
“The linesman just grabbed me and said, ‘You’re going to the box’,” said Wise. “I thought it was a clean hit. I didn’t know what was going on. Luckily they didn’t call a penalty.”
Lucky it was for Wise, but not so much for the Attack, who spent most of the game killing off penalties in a 3-1 loss to the Majors to end round-robin play at the MasterCard Memorial Cup. It was the grudge match between the two teams after the underdog Attack defeated the Majors in a thrilling Game 7 overtime at the Hershey Centre to claim the Ontario Hockey League title. The Majors were clearly out to settle that score. And they did just that, putting the Attack in the awfully difficult position of needing to win three games over the next four days to claim the Memorial Cup title. That daunting task begins Thursday night when the Attack play the Kootenay Ice in the tournament tiebreaker.
“I knew there was going to be some bad blood out there with what happened last series,” said Attack defenceman Matt Stanisz. “Obviously they were looking for some redemption. They were going to come out hard. We knew that was going to happen.
“It was just a battle out there.”
With poor officiating having garnered just as many headlines as the Memorial Cup games themselves, inconsistent calls from referees – on this night, Matt Kirk of the Western Hockey League and Dominick Bedard of the Quebec Junior Hockey League – seemed to only exacerbate the animosity.
Owen Sound took 13 minor penalties and allowed the Majors to go 1-for-9 on the power play while the Attack were 0-for-4. Rob Flick scored the game-deciding goal late in the second period during a 5-on-3 power play after Owen Sound’s Andrew Shaw and Mike Halmo – who foolishly dumped JP Anderson as the Mississauga goaltender was skating to the bench for an extra skater – were both penalized on the same shift.
“With the number of penalties we that we took – I don’t think St. Michael’s was squeaky clean out there,” said Attack head coach Mark Reeds. “At one point (the penalties favoured the Majors) 7-1.”
Attack defenceman Jesse Blacker took three minor penalties and seemed to be exasperated on the ice, but kept his emotions in check after the game despite the loss.
"You can say what you want about the refereeing, but we didn't help ourselves out, either," said Blacker, the Toronto Maple Leafs’ prospect. "I'm not going to comment on whether I agree with some of the calls or not. It is what it is.”
The Attack won’t have time to dwell on the loss since they’ll now face the WHL-champion Kootenay Ice on Thursday night in a tie-breaker since both teams have identical 1-2 records. Owen Sound’s sole win at the tournament was a 5-0 shutout of the Ice on Tuesday in which Attack star forward Joey Hishon was injured after being knocked out by an elbow from defenceman Brayden McNabb. Hishon missed the game against the Majors and to make matters worse, the Attack also seem to have lost captain Garrett Wilson after he was hit by Majors forward Chris DeSousa in the first period. There was no penalty on the play and Reeds seemed to suggest the injuries would keep both players from Thursday’s game.
“Truthfully, (Hishon) is sitting in the dark in his room,” said Reeds. “That doesn’t bode well for him.
“As far as Garrett goes, when an athlete starts asking the same question over and over again, that’s room to have concern and (Attack athletic therapist) Andy Brown did the right thing by taking him out of the game."
Generally, the rivalries in the OHL are based on geography and it seems odd that the Western Conference Attack and Eastern Conference Majors would hold such ill will for each other considering the two teams only meet twice a year during the regular season. But after having played a total of eight games since the OHL Final started on May 3, it’s clear from all the pushing and shoving post-whistle during the game that these teams are sick of seeing one another.
“Playing eight times in a (month) creates some hatred,” said Majors captain Casey Cizikas. “We know their weaknesses and strengths and they know our weaknesses and strengths.”
“When something does happen to you, you’ve just got to bite your lip and try to get that player back later. If we’re dwelling on trying to get revenge on them all the time then that’s only going to hurt us.”
Veteran Majors defenceman Marc Cantin said he doesn’t consider this victory as redemption after having to suffer through watching the Attack skate around with the J. Ross Robertson Cup at the Hershey Centre.
“They’re a good enough team to battle back out of this,” said the cerebral Cantin. “We just put them in a situation where we’re going to test their perseverance and be put in a situation where they have to win.”
The Majors will play the winner of the Attack-Ice game in Friday’s semi-final and the 21-year-old said he’d much rather play the role of spoiler.
“I would not be surprised by any means if we saw (the Attack) again on Friday,” said the Boston Bruins prospect. “It would be nice to face them and get a little redemption – actual redemption – instead of just putting them in a (tiebreak) situation.”
Majors teammate Justin Shugg, who scored into an empty net to seal the deal Wednesday and is now two wins away from his third Memorial Cup ring, was even less diplomatic.
“To knock them out of the tournament would be much nicer,” he said.