The host Mississauga St. Michael’s Majors did not practice this morning after winning last evening’s semi-final game 3-1 against Kootenay. On the penultimate day of the 2011 MasterCard Memorial Cup, some players and head coach Dave Cameron spoke about tomorrow night’s championship final game against the Saint John Sea Dogs.
Big left wing Devante Smith-Pelly scored two goals last evening including on the power play 63 seconds after the first puck drop for the game-opening goal. Smith-Pelly is the leading goal and point scorer on the Majors with 3 goals and 6 points in 4 MasterCard Memorial Cup contests.
He didn’t think fatigue would be a negative factor for the Majors who will play on one full day of rest against Saint John who will play on four full days of rest. “This is the biggest game of all of our lives. If you don’t have enough energy to compete in a game like this then you really shouldn’t be playing. The key is to just play our game. They’re a highly-skilled team. If we limit our mistakes and make it hard on their skilled guys and play physical then we should have a good chance. If we play our game, stay physical anything can happen.”
Smith-Pelly added that the scheduling of games might work in Mississauga St. Michael’s favour. “I wouldn’t say it’s unfair. I think we’re just a little bit more game-ready. I think we’re just going to jump right into it on Sunday as opposed to getting our game legs back like they might be,” noting that home-ice is also an intangible that is on the side of the Majors.
“They have the rest but we have the fans behind us, so if we use that to our advantage then it could work out. [Home-ice] is huge. It kind of takes away from the nerves. It’s an environment that we’re all used to. Having the crowd behind us is huge. We haven’t had a sold-out rink in a while here so anytime we’re playing in front of almost 6,000 people and most of them are cheering for you, it’s great.”
He stated that the Majors do not plan to make any major adjustments after losing to Saint John in the first game of the MasterCard Memorial Cup 4-3, a night when Smith-Pelly scored a goal and added two assists. “We played well that game. I thought we deserved a better fate in that game for sure. As long as we play like that and tighten up a little bit defensively, we should be okay. They want to prove that they’re number 1 so there’s probably a little bit of pressure on them.”
Majors’ general manager and head coach Cameron seemed relaxed and spoke proudly about his days playing hockey in his native province of Prince Edward Island and the Canadian Maritime region and tipped his hat to Saint John director of hockey operations Mike Kelly and head coach Gerard Gallant.
“That’s pretty unique when you look at Mike (from Shamrock, P.E.I.) and I from a little town, both of us being able to make it this far. I don’t know what the right word is – it’s rare … Mike was a hell of a hockey player,” then jokingly added, “Gerard, he’s the city boy, with us two country hicks.”
“Gerard Gallant’s a great head coach but as good a coach as he is, he’s a better person. He was an NHL star who is as humble as they come and who has absolutely no ego. I said at the start of the tournament that if we didn’t win it, I’d want them to win it, but to hell with them, I’m done being nice.”
Like Smith-Pelly, Cameron did not think the Majors needed to make any substantial changes to defeat Saint John. “No, we have to play our game. It has to be a complete game. We can’t be weak in any areas or they’ll take advantage of it. So we’ll just play the 200 foot game, limit our mistakes and hope we get a couple of bounces.”
Cameron was generally pleased with his team after last night’s semi-final victory. “It was a pretty good game. Are we hitting our stride? We’re playing much better. You always think your team can be better and we expect to be better on Sunday,” adding that he didn’t think too many days off for Saint John or too few days off for his club would be a difference-maker.
“I don’t know their club well enough to know how they’re going to respond to that. Rest is important. Is there such a thing as too much rest going into this tournament? I’m not sure. Us, playing a semi-final game I don’t think is going to hurt us. The only thing with an extra game is the tendency to injuries but I don’t think it’s going to make or break [tomorrow's game] by any means.”
About the Author: Adrian Fung (@PenguinsMarch) contributes game reports, opinions, analysis and features, mostly about the Pittsburgh Penguins. He has covered the World Hockey Summit, Kraft Hockeyville, World Junior Championship exhibition games, CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game, MasterCard Memorial Cup and NHL Rookie Tournament for Hockey Independent. twitter.com/PenguinsMarch