Home ice disadvantage

TERRY KOSHAN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 7:43 AM ET

If the St. Michael's Majors can find a way tomorrow night to do something neither they nor the Mississauga IceDogs have done in their first-round playoff series, a substantial upset could be in the offing.

The Majors got goals from Cory Vitarelli and Tyler Donati in the third period and killed off a late penalty to beat the IceDogs 3-2 before 4,173 at the Hershey Centre. St. Mike's leads the best-of-seven quarter-final 2-1 and if it wins Game 4 tomorrow at St. Michael's Arena, it would mark the first time in the series a club has won in its own building.

"It's a must-win for us," said goalie Justin Peters, who sparkled with a 47-save performance. "In the playoffs you have to win in your own barn. Coming into this series, we were prepared to go the distance. It's no pushover, that's for sure."

The Majors, the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference, finished 14 points behind the No. 1 IceDogs in the regular season. St. Mike's triumphed without its captain and best defenceman, Nathan McIver. He suffered a wrist injury in Game 2 on Sunday and said he is day to day, but acknowledged he may not be ready to play in Game 4.

The IceDogs were 29-0-4 during the regular season when leading after two periods but the pesky Majors didn't care. Donati tied the game at 6:37 of the final period when he skated out of the corner untouched, waited for goalie Michael Ouzas to commit and shot the puck over him.

Vitarelli was credited with the winner four minutes later when he steamed down the ice and the puck slipped under Ouzas into the net. Replays indicated Majors defenceman Ryan Wilson was the last to touch the puck but St. Mike's wasn't about to argue about its winning goal.

Colin Power also scored for the Majors. Daniel Carcillo, who can be a solid contributor when he sticks to the game in front of him, and David Pszenyczny scored for Mississauga.

Despite registering 29 shots to the IceDogs' 49, the Majors played with pep and continue to show they have no problems getting their noses dirty. But the IceDogs were not as eager, and many of their shots were from the perimeter.

What's more, the Majors have held 'Dogs star Patrick O'Sullivan to three assists in three games.

"I am concerned we are relying on Patrick to do the offence," IceDogs coach Greg Gilbert said. "Everybody in that dressing room has the capability of scoring goals. If we rely on one guy, we won't be around long."

Naturally, Majors coach Bud Stefanski had little difficulty with the outcome, even though his team was badly outshot.

"The guys really sucked it up and everybody gave what they had," Stefanski said when asked about winning with the absence of McIver. "It was sweet to come out with a win."


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