Flick’s tricky stick flips Majors a win

Mississauga St. Michael's Majors' Maxim Kitsun. right, puts one past Kootenay Ice's Nathan Lieuwen...

Mississauga St. Michael's Majors' Maxim Kitsun. right, puts one past Kootenay Ice's Nathan Lieuwen with the help Rob Flick, left, at the Hershey Centre in Mississauga.( Dave Thomas/QMI Agency)

RYAN PYETTE, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 4:16 AM ET

Rob Flick is a bull moose.

The 6-foot-2, 208-pound Mississauga St. Michael’s veteran forward has the size and power that his own head coach Dave Cameron — who his players call ‘Moose’, by the way — coveted on his Canadian world junior team last January in Buffalo.

And with the Memorial Cup hosts locked in a tentative and cautious struggle with the Western league champion Kootenay Ice Sunday night, the big 20-year-old Londoner charged to the net a couple of times and there was nothing anyone could do to stop him.

In the first period, Flick’s powerful move in deep resulted in a goal by Russian teammate Max Kitsyn.

In the third, the Chicago Blackhawks prospect did it himself, cutting around a defender and rescuing the Majors from a near-impossible two-loss Cup start with a 2-1 victory before 5,429 at the Hershey Centre.

Thanks to Flick’s tricky stick, the Majors avoided a season-high four-loss slump and announced themselves as alive and well in the tourney with one more round-robin game to go against the Owen Sound Attack on Wednesday.

The Ice didn’t have their captain.

Brayden McNabb was suspended one Memorial Cup game for his high elbow that knocked out Owen Sound star centre Joey Hishon Saturday night.

Time for a Plan B — or ‘E’ in this case. Time to board the Cody Eakin bus.

The Western league champs traded away eight pieces to the Swift Current Broncos for the talented Canadian world junior centre with the heart, grit and scoring touch.

The Winnipeg native and Washington prospect said there was some pressure — good pressure, he called it — but he didn’t come to Cranbrook to be a hero.

Well, they needed one badly.

And after being shut out Saturday night against Owen Sound, Eakin opened the scoring in the must-win game.

He beat Mississauga goalie J.P. Anderson on a scorer’s shot.

It was on the power play, too. The Ice had cursed their play with the man advantage the night before.

The Ice knew what they were up against and kept the forecheck to a minimum.

Without McNabb, the Western boys didn’t have their biggest offensive threat. The Buffalo prospect posted 27 points in the playoffs.

And he’s also a 6-foot-4, 218-pound behemoth. He makes players keep their head up especially since, in Ice coach Kris Knoblauch’s words, he comes across the ice to throw a big hit like that “every other game.”

Some feel McNabb was fortunate to miss just one game and lucky he’ll play again. Hishon’s immediate future will be updated on Monday.

The Ice and the host Majors understood the stakes. Falling to 0-2 at this tournament is usually the kiss of death.

Only one team has bounced back from two opening losses to win the Cup. That was two years ago in Rimouski and the club that did it — the Windsor Spitfires — were a special squad.

The Ice, though without that same star power (Owen Sound d-man and Leafs prospect Jesse Blacker and Mississauga sniper Justin Shugg were complimentary youngsters on that ’09 Spits team) — feel they’ve got a resiliency reservoir, too.

Kootenay took a thumping early in their first round of the playoffs against the Moose Jaw Warriors just like they did against the Attack in the Cup opener.

“We bounced back from that,” veteran Ice defenceman Hayden Rintoul said, “and I thought Owen Sound played well but we didn’t have our best game. We took it to them (late in the second period) and I thought it was unfortunate we didn’t score.

“There’s a little bit of nerves and frustration, but we’re over that and I think we’ll get better as we go along here just like we did during the playoffs.” 

Early on in the year, playing consecutive games was Kootenay’s Achilles’ heel.

“At the start of the year, our record in back-to-back games was comical,” Knoblauch said, “but we gradually got better as the season went on as we smoothed out the rough edges.” 

It became a strength.

“We came together as a team after Christmas,” Rintoul said, “and we improved our consistency. We became a better hockey team.”

But largely because of big Flick, it still wasn’t enough.

And now, they’re in Major danger of going home early.

ryan.pyette@sunmedia.ca
twitter.com/RyanAtLFPress


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