MISSISSAUGA — Bayshore South was loud and proud, with the Owen Sound Attack skating off with a 5-0 win over the Kootenay Ice in the MasterCard Memorial Cup.
With the win, the Attack set up a de facto semifinal against the loaded Saint John Sea Dogs on Monday at the Hershey Centre. The winner will have the two victories in the bank that guarantees a spot in the final.
Sunaya Sapurji is covering the Brayden McNabb-Joey Hishon collision, so here's the other pertinent post-game questions.
How vital was it for the Attack to slow down Kootenay through the neutral zone? Kootenay had 29 shots on Jordan Binnington but didn't faze the 17-year-old goaltender, as Cody Eakin was their only dangerious attacker. The key to that was that Owen Sound, often characterized as an offence-first team, made Kootenay move through the neutral zone like the yellow caution flag was out.
"We did a good job with that, we had a lot of back pressure tonight," said Attack right wing Robby Mignardi, who scored two of the game's first three goals. "They
also did a very good job of trapping us and we kind of took a page out of their book. In the first period, we were doing a good job of hemming them in their zone with a good cycle and good forechecking and that probably contributed to our success."
For the Ice, how much did the final margin reflect that frustration set in following some early missed opportunities? Kootenay couldn't cash in on 4:34 of power-play time in the first period. Right after Eakin (left in photo) negated a power play with an offensive-zone penalty, the Attack scored and never looked back. They had a 15-6 edge in shots in the second and contrived to fall another gaol back. The Ice lost focus, which was when McNabb was run for the elbowing major against Hishon (right in photo) in a bit of an ugly but fitting denouement.
"With a team like ours, you've got to get the bounces," said Ice forward Matt Fraser, who had 17 goals in 19 playoff games. "We've been a hard-working team all year and we need those. We felt like we deserved a better fate in the second period [when they outshot Owen Sound 15-6 and fell behind 2-0]. We obviously didn't get it. We needed a better push. That's possibly frustation when you have as many good chances as we had.
"Not a lot of guys on our team have experienced something like this and the reality is we have to learn it as go. I think we'll get better at that as tournament goes n."
Attack coach Kris Knoblauch suggested perhaps the Ice took the Attack a bit lightly after outplaying them across the last 10-12 minutes of the second period.
"Maybe we were too excited to get to the third period, thinking that's all that they had, that they weren't going to push back," he said, adding that the Ice have been prone to taking their sweet time to figure out how to play an opponent.
"I think our start was a lot like our first games in a couple of our [WHL] playoff series, We were just a little tentative and didn't really play our game until the second period. There's a lot of room for improvement. What we need to improve is on our power play, we had lots of chances to get the first goal."
How well are the Ice equipped for the tight turnaround to play Mississauga in a virtual must-win game on Sunday night? The more intensive travel in the WHL makes for a lot of back-to-back playoff games, so it's not an alien concept. Knoblauch noted the Ice — whose shortest playoff road trip, in terms of hours, was the flight to Southern Ontario — have a tendency to improve in the second game of back-to-backs. Consecutive games isn't a foreign concept to the Attack.
"Throughout the playoffs, we always played Friday/Saturday nights, back-to-back," Knoblauch said. "Two out of our four series, we lost the first game. Throughout the regular season, it's kind of comical, we were usually awful in back-to-back games, but we got better at it as the season went on. It's the same thing. You don't win or lose this tournament on opening night."
What kind of lift did Attack right wing Andrew Shaw provide in his return from a two-game ban? The bellicose Bellevillian contributed two assists and a heavy helping of sandpaper, giving the Attack a big lift. It did show why, even though it didn't turn out that way, people wondered how Owen Sound could come back in the OHL final after he was bounced for the duration following a match penalty in Game 5.
"It was a good bounce-back from him because we need that energy," Attack forward Cameron Brace, who had two excellent scoring chances, said. "He's a good role player for us. He played just the way we need him to play."
What did the Attack get away with tonight that they would likely pay dearly for against quick-strike Saint John on Monday? Not to be a nit-picker — although that is kind of what we do here — Owen Sound had too many turnovers. The Ice, with fewer bona fide snipers than many Memorial Cup teams, could not cash. The Attack are well-aware Saint John certainly would, what with usual suspects such as Jonathan Huberdeau, Zack Phillips, Tomas Jurco and confreres.
"You have to play a full 60 [minutes] against them," Mignardi said of the Sea Dogs. "You're not going to get away with the turnovers we had tonight."
"Once we made it 2-0, we had a lot of turnovers at our blueline," Attack coach Mark Reeds said. "Give all the credit to them for Kootenay for standing up, making things happen. But we needed to continue with our game plan ... I thought we did a much better job of managing the puck in the third."
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet (photo: OHL Images).