MISSISSAUGA, Ont., - Dave Cameron’s icy glare was impossible to miss as he sat at the podium for his post-game media appearance Tuesday night.
His Mississauga St. Michael’s Majors had just defeated the Owen Sound Attack 7-3 to take a 3-2 series lead in the Ontario Hockey League Final, but that gave Cameron little cause for celebration.
Instead, angry at the officiating and the liberties he felt the Attack had taken with his team, the 52-year-old veteran coach went on an animated tirade worthy of the television cameras positioned in front of him.
“Outside of all the other crap that happened,” said Cameron, who can be intimidating during the best of times. “It wasn’t too bad a game.”
The first target of his ire was Attack forward Andrew Shaw, who was given a match penalty for roughing late in the game when he sucker-punched Majors forward Chris DeSousa while the two were being separated by the officials in a scrum by the boards. The punch dropped the 20-year-old DeSousa to the ice with blood dripping from a cut under his left eye. The Majors said DeSousa, who did not require stitches, wasn’t available to speak with reporters after the game after the game, though he was seeing sporting a large welt as he left the dressing room.
“Cowardly, cowardly act,” said Cameron, in the post-game press conference. Shaw will miss at least Game 6 of the series on Thursday in Owen Sound and could miss even more time pending a league review.
“A match penalty is a suspension and it should be. There’s been a lot of B.S. the whole series. (The Attack) are either diving or complaining. You’ve got a kid (Shaw) that’s been diving the whole series, gets up and takes the cheapest shot possible. End of comment.”
But Cameron, whose tirade came after Owen Sound coach Mark Reeds had already held his own media conference, wasn’t quite ready to stop. There was a lengthy pause before the coach continued his own version of the Owen Sound attack.
“One other thing I just remembered, you got a kid that had more penalty minutes than shifts and that’s not usually a good sign."
And although he wasn’t specific, he was likely referring to Attack forward Daniel Zweep, who saw limited ice time and was handed a 10-minute misconduct late in the game along with Mississauga forward Jamie Wise and defenceman Dylan DeMelo for pushing and shoving after the whistle. At the time of the melee, the Majors were leading the game 6-3 with roughly four minutes left to play.
“I think there’s a lot of after-whistle stuff, I think there’s a lot of stuff that’s … not getting called, especially when we have the lead,” said Cameron. “The refs are refereeing the score. . . we’re in Owen Sound the other night (Sunday for Game 4), and I think we had the first three power plays and then they had the next six. That says it all. Same as (Tuesday night), we scored early a couple of times on the power play and then they get the next four or five (calls). They’re missing stuff and it’s frustrating.”
There is little doubt Cameron will be sanctioned by the OHL for his comments – particularly about the poor officiating – though after the press conference he explained why he was fired up.
“When my players are getting hurt,” said Cameron. “That’s when I'm going to get upset.”
Prior to the third period, the game had been a close contest with the Attack rallying from a 4-0 first-period deficit.
"I have to take responsibility for that," said Reeds. "Our team wasn't ready to play in the first period. To go down 4-0 against a good hockey club and just expect to fight your way back, that's not going to happen."
It was a much different scenario from Game 4 in Owen Sound, where it took roughly 55 minutes before Majors forward Justin Shugg opened the scoring late in the third period before a 2-1 overtime Attack victory. On Tuesday night, both teams combined for six goals in the opening 20 minutes alone, with the Majors chasing Attack goalie Michael Zador – fresh off his stellar 41-save performance in Sunday’s victory – at the 10:59 mark of the first period, having surrendered two goals on six shots. Zador was replaced in net by Scott Stacjer and the move seemed to lift the Attack, who rebounded with two quick goals to end the frame 4-2.
Attack forward Robby Mignardi then extended his playoff point streak to 10 games after deflecting a Jesse Blacker point shot past Majors goalie JP Anderson 1:19 into the third period. It was the third unanswered goal for the Attack and the sixth goal Mignardi has scored in the final against the Majors.
The next goal was clutch and belonged again to Shugg, who did his best to evade Attack defenceman Matt Stanisz on a breakaway before tapping the puck through Stacjer’s five-hole on the backhand.
“I just tried to make him go side-to-side because that’s one of the spots that does open up, so I was looking five-hole,” said the Carolina Hurricanes draft pick. “(Stanisz) was right on my back and I tried to rub him off my left and then he tried to go to my right so I dropped the puck back to my left and I just kind of made a little move and Scott Stacjer opened up.”
The goal padded the Majors lead to 5-3 with just over eight minutes left in the game and the Attack couldn’t find a way to respond.
“That was huge,” said Attack forward Joey Hishon of Shugg’s goal. “The game wasn't out of hand then, I don't think. We were still in it and still battling hard.”
It was at that point the game started getting out of hand with the penalties and post-whistle shenanigans for both teams. There were a total of 14 infractions – including six misconducts and two fighting majors – called in the third period. And while both teams were equally guilty for many of their own calls, there were a few, like a slashing penalty to Majors captain Casey Cizikas, that the Mississauga side – and its faithful followers among an announced Hershey Centre gathering of 3,242 - found particularly egregious.
“It’s not fair when you’re calling chintzy slashing penalties and then guys are actually getting hurt out on the ice,” said Shugg. “You have to make the right calls because it is the championship series. If you can’t do it, you shouldn’t be reffing.”
The Majors can clinch their first modern-era OHL championship in Owen Sound on Thursday. When asked who would be starting in goal for the Attack – who have used both Stacjer and Michael Zador in the series so far - Reeds refused to commit.
“I won't divulge that information right now," he said.
Shugg, who is looking for his third consecutive OHL title after winning back-to-back championships with the Windsor Spitfires, has already been busy – along with fellow ex-Spitfire Marc Cantin – prepping his Majors teammates on what it’s like to hoist the hardware.
“We know they have a great hockey club, but they’re very beatable,” said Shugg. “It’s a close series, but the feeling of lifting the (J. Ross Robertson) Cup is outstanding and me and Marc have let everyone know that in the dressing room and all these guys want their name on it.”