Shugg's experience could help Majors

TERRY KOSHAN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 6:44 PM ET

MISSISSAUGA — Justin Shugg has been dispensing advice to his Mississauga St. Michael’s Majors teammates when the subject of the Memorial Cup arises.

Truth is every participant in the 2011 tournament would be wise to listen up.

Shugg has raised the Cup the past two years with the Windsor Spitfires. If the Majors win the Cup in nine days, Shugg will become the just second player in major junior history, joining Robert Savard, to be part of the championship team in three consecutive years.

“The tournament is over before you know it,” Shugg said on Thursday. “It’s fast and it’s quick. If you have one bad period, you have to re-group and you really have to think about what is going on out there. Special teams are going to be huge. You’re playing teams you don’t know a lot about.”

There’s no clear-cut favourite among the four clubs, but the Saint John Sea Dogs could have the inside track. The top-ranked team in the Canadian Hockey League when the regular season ended, the Sea Dogs won 58 games and have no less than nine players, including No. 3 Jonathan Huberdeau, among central scouting’s rankings for the 2011 NHL entry draft.

The Sea Dogs and Majors open the tournament on Friday night, with the Owen Sound Attack and Kootenay Ice squaring off 24 hours later.

One of the drastic changes that comes with the Memorial Cup for teams is the fact they’ve not played their opponent before. That won’t apply when the Majors and Attack clash next Wednesday, but for the most part, one hurdle that teams have to jump over is familiarizing themselves with an opponent on the fly.

“It definitely makes it harder,” Majors captain Casey Cizikas said. “We know (the Sea Dogs) are a good team, that they’re offensive and we can’t open up against them.

“There’s going to be lots of emotion in the game.”

Saint John goalie Jacob DeSerres doesn’t know much about the Majors and plans to keep it that way.

“I don’t want to know too much about the other team,” DeSerres said. “The more you know as a goalie, the more you think about things and get things in your head. I like to know as little as possible and just try to stop the puck.”

Part of the mental strain for the Majors, if there is one, is trying to forget they were not supposed to slide into the tournament through the back door. This is a team that had prepared itself to become OHL champions, and it appeared through much of the playoffs that they would be exactly that. But the Majors couldn’t hold series leads of 2-0 and 3-2 against the Attack, who won all four of their games in the final by one goal. The Attack stunned the Majors with an overtime win in Game 7.

“When you have a loss like that in such a key moment, you have to absorb it, and then you have to let it go,” Majors head coach/general manager Dave Cameron said. “We are lucky we have a chance. In most years after a loss, you put your tail between your legs and go home and you may never get a kick at the cat again. That should make it easier to let go.”

The presence of Shugg, a Carolina Hurricanes prospect, should help. Experience isn’t something that can be conjured out of thin air.

“The first time in the Cup, we really underestimated a lot of teams,” Shugg said of the 2009 tournament with Windsor. “It’s just different from the playoffs.

“Everything is under a microscope, and there are a lot more eyes on you, but I’m relaxed. I’m not going to hit the panic button. But you have to know it’s a one-shot kind of deal and not a seven-game series.”

terry.koshan@sunmedia.ca

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