Tue May 24 12:59am EDT
MISSISSAUGA — The fact the Owen Sound Attack couldn't seal the deal on Monday could be rationalized away.
Joey Hishon was out due to injury and the Saint John Sea Dogs, as per their coach Gerard Gallant, are a "pretty gifted offensive hockey team" who are strong enough to wear the mantle of being No. 1 with a bullet at the MasterCard Memorial Cup. Still, in an all-too-short tournament played by young players, there's no room for cold, hard logic. For as large a hole as Hishon's injury created for the Attack who fell 3-2 in overtime to the Saint John Sea Dogs, players felt there was an even bigger one in terms of their remaining core players' efforts.
"It's brutal, you can't play like that in this level of hockey, a tournament like this," said defenceman Jesse Blacker, the Toronto Maple Leafs prospect who logged about 30 minutes in a fast-paced game. "You're going to lose if you don't have all 20 guys going, plain and simple. That's the only way it is. Some guys had excellent games. Some of the older guys did play really well."
"The people who didn't play well, they know who they are," added Blacker, who was the last man between Jonathan Huberdeau and goalie Jordan Binnington when the Sea Dogs star wired home the decider with 2:25 left in overtime. "There is no need to kick them when they're down at this level. They need to pick it up, focus on the next game against Mississauga [on Wednesday]."
Owen Sound might have been a bit fortunate to get to overtime, given both its goals were via deflections and goaltender Jordan Binnington (41 saves) fairly stood on his head by times. Still, they were one shot from better controlling their own destiny in the tournament. In the aftermath of the loss, there was no getting by the fact Huberdeau's winner was directly off the Sea Dogs winning a puck battle after recovering a straightforward shoot-in to create a chance. Coach Mark Reeds said his team was "outmuscled" on the play, which is pretty damning in a game on May 23.
"There were a couple players on our team that probably could have had better games," Reeds said. "With Joey Hishon being out of the lineup, it's a big hole for our hockey team. I thought we managed it pretty well."
The Attack are 14-3-0-2 when the Colorado Avalanche first-round choice is out of the lineup. Hishon's absence hurt the most late in the second period when the Attack were gifted with a 67-second two-man advantage less than two minutes after Tomas Jurco pulled the Sea Dogs within a goal. They couldn't get anything going.
"Our power play took a hit without him [Hishon]," said Attack captain Garrett Wilson, who moved to the No. 1 centre spot. "We weren't able to generate much after the first period, I thought the guys really stepped up at times, we have been able to win all year without him.
"We definitely could have used him," Wilson added "We had some chances, it's definitely a bitter feeling."
The loss puts the Attack in what amounts to Game 8, with Game 9 possibly to come, against OHL counterpart Mississauga-St. Michael's Majors on Wednesday. They squandered a superb game by Binnington, though, and the loss marks the end of a roll that started with Matt Petgrave's overtime winner in Game 3 of the OHL final two weeks ago.
"You got to put it behind you," Blacker said. "Something like this where you lose an opportunity, you can't dwell on it on it a tournament format.
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Contact him at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet (photo: CHL Images).