Do you remember the old cliche you cant win them all? If it was only this simple for the Mississauga St. Michael Majors.
The Majors played the third game of the second round of playoffs against the Brampton Battalions on Sunday, breaking the series lead to 2-1 for the Battalions, leaving the Majors on the edge of elimination.
Its a battle of the two netminders, the Battalions Thomas McCollum and the Majors J.P. Anderson, who have single-handedly brought their teams this far. But can the Majors shove the Battalions and their allstar scoring lines out of the playoffs?
Notwithstanding their mid-season drought, the Majors had a strong start, winning four of their first five regular season games. The early acquisition of forward Jared Gomes gave depth to the teams offensive line — Gomes came in third in points, only behind forward Mike Pelech and star defenseman Cameron Gaunce.
Casey Cizikas returned to the lineup, hoping to boost the teams scoring while rookie Devante Smith- Peely joined in a strong push for the division title. However, Swedish forward William Wallen left the season after three games with only four points and an off-ice brain aneurism which delayed his return until the end of the season. With the loss of defenseman Mike McGurk, who was dealt to the Owen Sound Attack, all of sudden there was a new team skating in the Hershey Centre.
The Battalions have always threatened the Majors and have crashed the party on more than one occasion — the Majors have only won once against Brampton in the seven games played against each other during the season.
The Battalions front line featuring captain and Vancouver prospect Cody Hodgson, New York Ranger pick Evgeny Grachev, 2009-draftee forward Matt Duchene, and Detroit Red Wings goalie prospect McCollum have all kept the Majors against the boards and away from the net.
During game three at the Powerade Centre in Brampton, the Majors were able to hold their end of the rope in the proverbial tug-ofwar, managing to survive with a 5-1 win. Anderson was instrumental in supporting the Majors, saving 35 shots, almost double of McCollums total.
Pelech scored a goal and two assists, taking the second star of the game, albeit with help from forward Kaspars Daugavins who had three helpers. But it was a full team effort with goals from Wallen, defenseman Brett Flemming, forward Kale Kerbashian, and center Jordan Mayer, not to mention a few crucial hits given by Gaunce.
But will this new team spirit and spurt of confidence help the Majors advance to the next round?
Its important to remember that there is no one player holding the spotlight like there used to be. Theres no Hodgson, John Tavares, or Ryan Ellis to control the zone or shadow, instead what we have is a well-balanced St. Mikes Majors. Unfortunately for them, they are playing the favourites in the Eastern conference.
Its not a question of how well they did during the season or their goals-against in the last ten games, its the teams momentum from the bracket — Brampton still has the upper hand after defeating the Peterbrough Petes in four straight games. But at the same time, we cant take focus off the Majors and their successful run against division rivals, Barrie Colts.
Each line on the Majors is as valuable as the next. Coach and General Manager Dave Cameron expects a few points from the blue line, especially from Gaunce whose gritty attitude and hard shot from the point gives the Majors their strong backing. But its expected that, Gomes, Mayer, Messier, and Wallen will help push the Blues past all obstacles.
Unfortunately, its not an easy road as the Majors future depends on whether Anderson can hold up after another 30 shots per game. They failed to keep the Battalions away from the net and against the boards in the first three games, leaving Anderson to keep the team above water.
If Anderson can outplay McCollum again, the Majors will have a shot in the quarter-finals.