For the second year in a row, the Owen Sound Attack have lost their top goal scorer to a head-checking suspension at playoff time.
A protest sign in front of an Owen Sound business on Saturday (Twitter)Right wing Cameron Brace, as per the Attack's Twitter account, has received a five-game ban. On Wednesday, Brace sent Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds centre Jared McCann to the hospital with a check to the head during Game 1 of the teams' Western Conference first-round series. It was described as "Lupul-esque" although Brace was only assessed a two-minute minor penalty.
Owen Sound's Cameron Brace with a hit on Soo rookie Jared McCann that looked Lupul-esque. Brace gets 2 minutes, McCann down.
— Loosepucks.com (@loosepucks) March 21, 2013
Cameron Brace has been suspended for five games by the OHL. Cue the riot.
— Owen Sound Attack (@AttackOHL) March 23, 2013
You can imagine how the Attack feel. The team's four-paragraph release reads, "Based on video review, the initial point of contact on Brace’s hit seems to be the left side of McCann’s chest." It was a late check, but those are part of playoff hockey.
You see what they did there? For posterity's sake, here it is in its entirety:
The Owen Sound Attack is announcing that forward Cameron Brace has been suspended for FIVE games by the Ontario Hockey League.
Brace was given a two minute minor for his hit on Greyhounds forward Jared McCann 3:55 into the second period. McCann did not finish the game.
Based on video review, the initial point of contact on Brace’s hit seems to be the left side of McCann’s chest.
The Owen Sound Attack organization will have no further public comment at this time regarding the suspension.
Please take note of the Attack's recent history with highly publicized headshots, though. Last season, their captain and leading scorer Mike Halmo got a 10-game suspension just before the playoffs for a headshot on future NHL first overall pick Nail Yakupov during a late regular-season game.
Ironically, Brace and McCann's run-in came 48 hours after former Attack star Joey Hishon played his first game in two seasons since being injured during the 2011 Memorial Cup. Hishon was nailed with an elbow to head by the Kootenay Ice's Brayden McNabb in both teams' first game of the Canadian Hockey League championship. McNabb was suspended for one game and later returned to help Kootenay eliminate Owen Sound. That was the tournament committee's decision, not the OHL.
That's not to say there is bias, but those instances illustrate why the Attack would believe that the OHL's justice league has done them wrong. At the same time, Brace was playing on the edge. The 'Hounds-Attack series was touted as a matchup between two of the OHL's snarlier teams, since Owen Sound led the league in penalty minutes and Sault Ste. Marie has a big lineup. Game 1 lived up to expectations, with Brace doing his best to get to the Greyhounds. He also caught the Soo's 103-point scorer, Nick Cousins, with an open-ice check in the third period where it appeared he might have taken a two-foot jump before applying contact.
The 'Hounds are hush-hush over McCann's status for the rest of the series.
Hounds general manager Kyle Dubas, who rode in the ambulance with McCann, would only say the player was under observation and was undergoing a battery of tests.
Asked if the injury appeared serious, Dubas answered in the affirmative.
“It's not about hockey right now,” Dubas said. “It's about making sure he's 100 per cent healthy.”
(Sault Star, March 22)
@houndsinsider we do not. Not an injury you really put a timeline on. He’s out indefinitely.
— Soo Greyhounds (@OHLHoundPower) March 23, 2013
Brace, who is ranked by NHL Central Scouting after going unpicked in his first two years of draft eligibility, was 15th in the OHL with 35 goals this season. His presence for Owen Sound is much larger than his listed stature of 5-foot-10 and 176 pounds. Still, with no report on how much time Jared McCann will miss, it might be hard to argue against a suspension.
The Attack are a deeper team than they were a year ago when they were left with a Halmo-sized hole in their lineup just before the playoffs, so they might be able to get along okay without Brace. This time, though, their opponent has also lost a top-six forward indefinitely.
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet. Please address any questions, comments or concerns to firstname.lastname@example.org.