Attack's Mignardi a real team player

Steve Buffery, Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 4:07 AM ET

Owen Sound forward Robby Mignardi learned a thing or two playing rep lacrosse in Markham years ago.

Like, it’s always good to duck when someone swings a stick at your head, and, never stick your face in front of a flying rubber ball.

But another valuable lesson Mignardi picked up when he played in the Markham Thunder organization was that teamwork wins games.

In fact, one year his Markham Thunder lacrosse team won the Ontario championship, partly because of teamwork, partly because the Thunder was full of tremendous athletes — many of whom went on to some success in hockey, including Tampa Bay Lightning forward Steve Stamkos.

The truth is, if you took half of that Markham Thunder lacrosse team and brought them together today, you’d have a helluva a junior hockey team, or, at least, a strong nucleus of a great team.

Stamkos is well established in the NHL, of course. But Mignardi said at least eight guys who played lacrosse with him in Markham went on to play in the Ontario Hockey League, three of whom are in this week’s Memorial Cup tournament, Mignardi, Mississauga St. Michael’s defenceman Michael D’Orazio and Saint John goaltender Jacob Deserres.

Others from the Thunder team that won the Ontario championship included San Jose Sharks draft pick Phil Varone, who recorded 81 points in 55 games for the Erie Otters this season, and New York Islanders signee Jamie Doornbosch, a mainstay on the Kitchener Rangers defence this year.

For Mignardi, good times. Unfortunately, that hasn’t always been the case with his junior hockey career.

Drafted by the Kingston Frontenacs in 2006, the 6-foot, 186-pound winger struggled during his three seasons in eastern Ontario before he asked for a trade and was shipped to Owen Sound prior to last season.

Franchise record

Since then, under coach Mark Reeds, Mignardi has flourished, scoring back-to-back 30 goal seasons. This year he picked up 61 points playing on the second line and recorded a franchise-record plus 35.

And last night, in a 5-0 victory over the Kootenay Ice in preliminary Memorial Cup action at the Hershey Centre, Mignardi was the offensive star, scoring two goals, including a short-handed marker in the third.

Still, despite his success in Owen Sound, Mignardi was not selected in the NHL draft, and, as an overage player, that likely won’t happen now. However, his tremendous two-way play this season and the fact that he was named the tournament MVP in this year’s OHL playoffs — recording 22 points in 20 games to help the Attack win the J. Ross Robertson Cup — means that he undoubtedly will get invited to some NHL camps.

“I knew this had to be the biggest season of my career, that’s for sure,” Mignardi said. “I knew no matter what, we’d have to get deep in the playoffs and for that to happen, a couple of supporting guys would have to change their rolls a little bit. So I changed my game to more of a defensive role.”

Mignardi said not being drafted by an NHL team was a big disappointment, but it forced him to refine and improve his game, particularly his defensive skills and his work on the power play.

“My plus/minus stats during the year was a marker for me, I was monitoring that very closely,” he said. “I had no idea that it was going to be a record, but I was making sure that I was doing everything possible to make sure I was on the ice for more goals for, than against.”

Mignardi, who had only played in two OHL playoff games prior to this season, is grateful everything has come together this season.

“It’s been great,” he said. “Every over-ager wants to be on a team that plays in the Memorial Cup because this is their last kick at the can.”

Mignardi’s certainly giving it a good kick.


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