OWEN SOUND, Ont.- It was perfect timing once again. Just as Cameron Brace exited the room where he had just finished a press conference, a TV in the hallway was replaying his game-winning goal in overtime.
There the Owen Sound attack forward stood looking up, still in his uniform sans skates and sporting a ball cap, intently watching himself skate down the Harry Lumley Bayshore Community Centre ice on a breakaway before firing it past Majors goaltender JP Anderson.
“Looks good,” he said with a broad smile early on Sunday evening.
The goal gave the Attack a 2-1 victory and tied the OHL Final best-of-seven series at 2-2 with Game 5 of the championship series in Mississauga’s Hershey Centre on Tuesday. It’s the second consecutive time the Attack have won in overtime, having beaten the top-ranked Majors as visitors on Friday night – a mere 56 seconds into the extra frame.
“It was a well-played game and probably more of what people expected in the championship series,” said Attack coach Mark Reeds.
This time it took a whole 16 minutes for the Attack to come away victorious, though the winning goal started with a little bad luck. Forward Joey Hishon had lost his stick on the play, but thankfully for the Attack star it hadn’t slid too far away from him, so he was able to retrieve it.
“Because he lost his stick he was able to skate into the right position,” explained Reeds.
“(Majors defenceman Stuart) Percy took a shot that hit me in the foot,” said Hishon, who finished the game with two assists. “Lucky enough I kicked it up to my stick and hit Brace on the breakaway and he made a great shot.
“It was all crazy and a blur after that, I don’t remember anything.”
The game was intense having been scoreless until the 15:21 mark of the third period with both goaltenders, Anderson and Owen Sound’s Michael Zador, coming up with spectacular saves at each end of the ice. By the end of the game, both goaltenders had gotten a workout with Zador making 41 saves and Anderson – who was subpar in Friday’s loss – stopping 38 shots.
“There were lots of chances both ways,” said Majors head coach Dave Cameron. “I thought both goaltenders were good. (Anderson) was real solid. We hung him out to dry on the breakaway.”
When forward Justin Shugg gave the Majors a 1-0 lead late in the third period, the dejection in Owen Sound was palpable. Shugg, a two-time Memorial Cup winner with the Windsor Spitfires before coming to Mississauga, used the end boards to his advantage by creating his own rebound as the puck bounced back in the slot for him to beat Zador.
“We talked about the lively boards here,” said Shugg. “We haven’t been dumping the puck as great as we wanted to. We’re dumping it right to the goalie. I think that’s something we can work on I just felt like I could get a burst of speed past the D-man and that’s exactly what I tried to do.”
But the Majors lead was short-lived – 55 seconds to be exact. It was winger Robby Mignardi, riding a nine-game point streak that sent the announced crowd of 3,242 at the Lumley Bayshore arena to their feet by putting a rebound past Anderson to tie the game. Mignardi has scored in every game of the series thus far and has burned the Majors for five goals.
In overtime, the arena erupted at every good scoring opportunity the Attack had in the overtime period – and there were many. At one point halfway through the first extra frame, the goal judge behind Anderson turned on the goal light for a brief moment before realizing the puck was nowhere near the goal line. When Brace scored, the result was a red light and a cheer so deafening it appeared to make the rafters shake inside the cozy arena.
“It was pretty crazy,” said Hishon. “When Brace’s shot first went in there a couple of guys in the room said they wanted to plug their ears because it was so loud. This rink’s rockin’ right now.”
For Brace it was also a chance at redemption, having missed an other scoring opportunity late in Game 3 in Mississauga. It wouldn't have been the game winner, but it would have padded the Attack lead by two goals in the game that also went into overtime. Once again he carried the puck in alone on a breakaway but waffled the puck while closing in on net, allowing Anderson to make a pad save. This time there was no hesitation.
“It’s great. It’s a good feeling. I wanted to get (the goal) badly (last game) but I couldn’t,” said Brace. “I was granted a second chance and I buried it.”
There was no doubt from his teammates, either, when they saw the 18-year-old Markham, Ont., native skate down the ice.
“I have a lot of confidence in (Brace),” said Hishon. “He’s an unbelievable hockey player and he’s going to have a lot of success in this league and through the pro ranks as well. I wasn’t down on him at all, I had all the confidence in the world he was going to score that goal.”