Major test for St. Mike's defence

TERRY KOSHAN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:20 AM ET

When St. Michael's Majors defenceman Nathan McIver suffered a wrist injury early in the first round of the Ontario Hockey League playoffs, coach Bud Stefanski wondered whether his club could prosper without its captain.

Stefanski will have no such worry tonight when the Majors open an Eastern Conference best-of-seven semi-final in Peterborough against the Petes.

"When we lost McIver halfway through Game 2, it was definitely a concern," Stefanski said after the Majors had their annual team picture taken yesterday. "Could we continue to play the way we were and continue to shut down (the Mississauga IceDogs') big guys? But we blocked a lot of shots and every guy was committed. Our guys just have to keep believing in each other."

Naturally, McIver hates his role as a spectator. Stefanski said McIver will be out of the lineup for at least another week.

"It's very difficult to watch," said McIver, who was voted the second-best defensive defenceman in the conference in the annual coaches' poll. "It's disappointing because I was healthy all year and missed only the first game. But the boys are getting the job done."

Although goalie Justin Peters faced an average of 41 shots a game in the first-round upset of the IceDogs, the Majors defence corps of Scott Lehman, Dale Good, Ryan Wilson, Chris Cunningham and Jaroslav Mrazek performed admirably. The group managed fine with increased ice time in McIver's absence and had a big hand in suppressing 'Dogs star Patrick O'Sullivan. Now, however, the job likely will become more difficult. The Petes are deeper than the IceDogs and have three lines, led by Liam Reddox and Daniel Ryder, which can put the puck in the net.

"We'll have to try to get under their skin more, especially their top guys," Lehman said.

"Losing Nathan was big but it makes us step up to the plate a little more."

One promise Good makes is the Petes won't have any clear lanes to the net. Life can be hell for opposing forwards in tiny St. Michael's Arena but with three wins in Mississauga in the opening round, the Majors proved they're no picnic on the road. What Good says more or less sums up the Majors' defence corps as a whole.

"I'm not the most skilled guy but I will compete and outwork you to the best of my ability," Good said. "It's all you can do. I'm definitely out there to punish guys."


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