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Majors take step towards regaining their groove

Sunaya Sapurji
Yahoo Sports

Marc Cantin says he was robbed. What he believes is missing from his personal belongings is one OHL championship, taken during an unsuspected Attack from Owen Sound.

"They stole a championship out of our hands in our building and we're coming for some revenge for sure," said the Mississauga St. Michael's defenceman of the rematch between the Majors and Attack at the MasterCard Memorial Cup on Wednesday.

Forward Justin Shugg, who lives with Cantin, said he was also a victim of the Attack.

"I guess we could call them a bunch of thieves," said Shugg with a smile on Monday morning. "We're all looking for revenge."

It's been clear from their play of late that the Majors have been in a funk ever since coughing up the league title – losing four out of last five games in the seven-game series – to Owen Sound, which culminated in a Game 7 overtime loss at the Hershey Centre.

"It's going to be a tough game on Wednesday," said Attack captain Garrett Wilson. "They're going to be out looking for revenge and hopefully we can steal another one from them."

Coming into Sunday night's game against the Kootenay Ice at the Memorial Cup, the Majors had lost three straight.

"A lot of the guys, they would never say it, but the fact that we were down and had lost three in a row, you could just see their spirits (were down)," said the Boston Bruins prospect. "It was the three biggest games of the year we lost. So you could see that guys were losing hope."

And when the Majors battled back to beat the Kootenay Ice by grinding out a tough 2-1 victory in Game 3 of the round robin, you could see those spirits immediately lift. Scoring a little confidence might have been even more important in this victory in terms of the Majors getting their swagger back.

"The emotion from just winning this game alone – a lot of guys got the monkey off their back," said Majors captain Casey Cizikas. "Definitely after (Sunday night) it was huge for us."

The pressure on the Majors to win after losing the OHL title, for which they were the favourite, was huge. They had been the top-ranked team in the OHL from the start of the regular season and had finished with a 53-13-0-2 record leading the league in both goals for (287) and goals against (170). Before meeting Owen Sound in the OHL Final, they had only lost a single game in the playoffs.

"I think we have something to prove," said Majors forward Rob Flick, who scored the game-winning goal on Sunday. "We want to prove we deserve to be here. I think we went out there and played our game and I think we showed we deserve it."

Flick's goal at the 11:51 mark of the third period broke a 1-1 deadlock in what was a tight, monotonous game between two teams used to a smothering defence and scoring by committee. The goal was a welcome one for Flick because it also helped get him out of head coach Dave Cameron's doghouse after the Chicago Blackhawks draft pick took back-to-back penalties in the first period to start Kootenay off with two power plays.

"He was spending too much energy on the non-hockey stuff," said Cameron of Flick. "Once I got him calmed down he played a real power game, which he really has to do.''

Also calming the team down during both the game and their losing skid were veterans Cantin and Shugg, who were acquired by the Majors last summer after they won the Memorial Cup with the Windsor Spitfires. This is the third junior tournament for the duo with Shugg having won another title with Windsor in 2009 and Cantin having gone to the 2008 Memorial Cup with the Belleville Bulls.

"They've been here before so they calm the guys down," said Cizikas of the veterans. "They know what the emotions are like here and what the pressures are like here with two previous Memorial Cups – four between them—so it's definitely a lot easier having guys like that on our team."

Cantin is one of the more vocal players on the team with his teammates and in the media. He's one of the few players in the OHL possessing both the eloquence and confidence to speak his mind without resorting to the lengthy list of hockey clichés. He says he owes it to himself to be outspoken – at least when it comes to the teammates in the dressing room.

"That's why we (Cantin and Shugg) were traded here – for this moment in time," said the 21-year-old. "I'm not going to (keep quiet) and then in two weeks time when I'm at home be like, ‘God I wish I would have said something, then I would have had another ring on my finger.' I give credit to (Shugg), too."

He remembered a three-game losing skid in February, Mississauga's longest losing streak of the regular season, which they broke in a 5-4 shootout win against the Kitchener Rangers. In that game, the Majors battled back from a three-goal deficit in the third period, with Flick scoring the game-tying goal with four seconds left in the game. After beating Kitchener, the Majors went on to win 12 of their next 14 regular-season games, never posting consecutive losses until their meeting with Owen Sound in the final.

Cantin believes that the win against Kootenay can help put the Majors back on track the same way that victory over Kitchener did during their last funk.

"That's why this game was so big," said Cantin of Sunday's tight win. "I remember that (Kitchener game) vividly, because that was the only other time all year that we went on a skid with our team, but we rallied back and this is going to be another situation like that. With this team as soon as we get some momentum, then it's something that's pretty special."

And for all the time Cameron and his coaching staff spend working on systems and running drills in practice, Cantin says at this stage in the tournament it's up to all the players on the ice to come up with the goods once the puck is dropped.

"Coach Cameron can write up whatever he wants, all the X's and O's but what it comes down to is heart and desire," said Cantin. "There's not much more you can prepare for because we've been preparing all year.

"Now it's here."

Sunaya Sapurji is the Junior Hockey Editor at Yahoo! Sports.
You can reach her at sunaya@yahoo-inc.com or on Twitter @Sunayas
.