Majors on track after 'miracle' win

ROGER LAJOIE, Special to QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:21 PM ET

TORONTO - It will forever be remembered as the Friday Night Miracle.

Although one regular season game does not make or break a season, there is no doubt the comeback staged by the Mississauga St. Michael's Majors Friday night at the Kitchener Memorial Auditorium might go down as a defining moment in their 2010-11 Ontario Hockey League season.

The Majors entered the game on a three-game losing streak, their longest of the year. They were also coming off a humbling 8-2 pasting at the hands of the Oshawa Generals on Wednesday night in Mississauga.

They fell behind 2-0 on Friday night — for the fourth straight game remarkably — and were clearly in a funk as 6,484 rabid Kitchener fans cheered with glee. A national television audience watching on Rogers Sportsnet also must have been wondering what was wrong with the clearly reeling Memorial Cup hosts.

Mississauga did battle back to get within a goal twice, but a Kitchener power play goal late in the third period made it 4-2 Rangers. With a minute to play and goalie JP Anderson on the bench for an extra attacker, it was still 4-2 and the Majors appeared doomed to a fourth straight loss.

And then — well apparently Yogi Berra was right, it really isn’t over until it’s over.

Gabriel Landeskog, who may be the No. 1 pick in the NHL Draft this June, had an empty-net bid blocked by Justin Shugg with a minute left. The Majors took off and Chris DeSousa jammed in his third goal of the game with 27 seconds left to make it 4-3.

Then came a delay of game penalty to Andrew Crescenzi that gave the Majors a six-on-four advantage and a faceoff in the Rangers zone with 11.1 seconds to go. Mike Catenacci lost the draw to Rob Flick and with just four seconds left in regulation, Flick slipped a Shugg rebound past Rangers goalie Brandon Maxwell to shockingly tie the game.

Two goals in the final 27 seconds, 23 seconds apart, the game-tying goal with four seconds left. The only glee in the building at this point was coming from a jubilant Majors bench.

Overtime came and went scoreless, and the only goal of the shootout in four rounds came courtesy of DeSousa, the regulation hero with his hat trick. The Majors poured off the bench to celebrate and the smile on general manager/coach Dave Cameron’s face was so bright it could be seen from ice level to, oh let’s say Buffalo.

Instead of a four-point lead atop the Eastern Conference standings, the Majors were back up by six points. And they increased that lead to eight points two days later when, still basking in the glow of that remarkable comeback, they hammered the Niagara IceDogs 10-1 Sunday at the Hershey Centre, their most lopsided win of the season.

“There is never any panic on our bench in situations like that, the guys respond really well,” Cameron says. “We preach here it’s not about the team we're facing, it’s about how we are playing.

“That philosophy sometimes pays off when things aren’t going so well.”

No doubt about that now.

The Majors still have a dozen games left in the regular season and a long playoff road ahead of them. Their big turnaround weekend has re-established them as the favourites to get first place overall in the OHL standings, but four playoff rounds (they hope) are still ahead before they even take to the ice at the Memorial Cup as hosts.

But should they manage to enter the tournament as OHL champions, scribes may look to try and find possible turning points, as they are wont to do.

Here's one for them — Friday, Feb. 18 in Kitchener — the scene of the Friday Night Miracle.


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