MISSISSAUGA — Unless Mark Reeds is a world-class bluffer, the Owen Sound Attack are staring at a must-win game without their best two players.
Their captain and best scorer with size, Garrett Wilson, was forced out of Wednesday's game after being crunched into the boards and glass by the Mississauga-St. Michael's Majors' Chris DeSousa. When Wilson went out, joining Joey Hishon (head injury) in limbo, he might have taken the Attack's MasterCard Memorial Cup hopes with him. For those scoring at home, the pair represent a combined 174 points.
"Truthfully, he's sitting in the dark in his room, so that doesn't bode well for him," Reeds, the Attack head coach, said after the 3-1 loss to the Mississauga-St. Michael's Majors at a Hershey Centre that was more sedate than the typical round-robin finale between league rivals.
"As far as Garrett goes, when an athlete starts asking the same question over and over again, that's a concern. [Trainer] Andy Brown did the right thing by taking him out of the game. It's sport, it's an unfortunate part of sport. It's something we have to deal with."
To their credit, the Attack didn't go quietly into the rainy Southern Ontario night after a doubled-over Wilson skated off, not to return. They came close a couple times to breaking through for a tying goal in the third period. Sparkplug Andrew Shaw — who must be playing hurt himself, seeing that he was not available for post-game interviews while receiving treatment — forced Majors goalie J.P. Anderson to make a game-saving reaction save. That was that, though, as Justin Shugg iced the game with an empty-netter with 35 seconds to play.
"If that had went in, omigod," said overage right wing Robby Mignardi. 'We would have had a lot of energy going into the overtime."
Instead, the Attack are looking at a matchup against rejuvenated Kootenay where they might not have their most creative playmaker, Hishon, and best big forward, the 6-foot-3, 205-pound Wilson. Beyond them, their best offensive threats are Mignardi and Shaw, neither of whom was ever taken in the NHL entry draft, along with 18-year-old draft prospect Andrew Fritsch and 17-year-old rookie Jarrod Maidens. It's slim pickings by tournament standards.
"It's a big loss," overage defenceman Matt Stanisz said of Wilson's absence. "But we lose as a team, we didn't have the start we wanted tonight, came back strong second and third ... there's not much you can do [if neither can play]. If you're injured, you're injured."
The Attack fallback is they have won before when their two big guns were out of the lineup. They also had that 5-0 win over Kootenay last Saturday, but the Ice seem to be on an upswing.
"It's been an uphill battle all year," Mignardi said. "We were down 2-0 in the final against St. Mike's, we battled back. This is a very resilient team, we're pretty good under pressure."
That being said, there's only so much that can be asked of a diminished team.
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet (photo: CHL Images).