MISSISSAUGA - Mark Reeds knew the questions were coming before he was asked.
Why did Reeds, the coach of the Owen Sound Attack, make a goaltending change for his team’s biggest game of the season?
Rather than stick with 17-year-old Jordan Binnington, who had a Memorial Cup-best .950 save percentage, Reeds turned to Scott Stajcer for the tiebreaker game Thursday night against the Kootenay Ice. The result was ugly, as a 7-3 loss sent the Ontario Hockey League champions home.
“Everyone will be asking the question about the change,” Reeds said in his opening remarks after the game at the Hershey Centre. “But knowing my team, I think I got the response I was looking for in the first period. That’s how it goes.”
The Attack had a 2-0 lead after 20 minutes. It then surrendered the next six goals, and Stajcer, who had not played in 16 days, was pulled. By then, there was no point in putting Binnington in.
Not starting Binnington was a mistake. The kid won Games 6 and 7 of the OHL final. Pressure has not been a problem for Binnington, who could be a first-round pick in the NHL entry draft in June.
The Memorial Cup is no place for turns. The rule in hockey is fairly simple. You go with your best goalie. Reeds did not do that, and the Attack paid for it.
“I would have been all right (had he been told he was starting), but I think he was just trying to switch things up,” Binnington, who shut out Kootenay last Saturday, said. “(Reeds) is a tremendous coach, and he has made many great decisions with his goaltending. But I was kind of surprised.”
Reeds said this week that his goalies — Binnington, Stajcer and Michael Zador — was a three-headed monster and that he has confidence in any of the three. But did Reeds, who was the OHL coach of the year, out-think himself? It appeared that way.
If the idea was to catch Kootenay off-guard, as Binnington hinted it was, then it worked, but not for long.
Even Stajcer said he was surprised to get the call.
“A little bit,” the New York Rangers prospect said. “Binner has been so amazing. He was great in the first three games. (Reeds) let me know in the morning, and I could not really think about why he did it, if he should have or not.
“He gave me the nod and I did not do what I should have done.”
Perhaps, but it was a heck of a spot to put Stajcer in.
Without its top two forwards, the Attack’s Cup dreams already were in a heap of trouble. Captain Garrett Wilson and Joey Hishon both missed the game with suspected concussions, and asking any team to subtract its two most prolific scorers was, as we expected, too much to ask ... One of the Attack forwards who came to play in his final major junior game was Liam Heelis. The overager continuously threw his body in front of shots on Ice power plays and nearly scored a short-handed goal in the second period when he manoeuvred past Ice captain Brayden McNabb and got a backhand on goaltender Nathan Lieuwen ... The Ice took over with three goals in a span of three minutes 26 seconds in the second period. The second was one that hurt — it came from Joe Antilla while the Ice was shorthanded, and just 11 seconds after Kootenay’s first goal. Attack defenceman Geoffrey Schemitsch pinched at the Kootenay blue line, leading to a 2-on-1 for the Ice between Cody Eakin and Antilla ... Overager Matt Fraser has been no slouch for Kootenay. He’s a smart player, and his three points in the game propelled the Ice.
From the hash marks
Majors coach/general manager Dave Cameron had a practical answer when he was asked on Thursday morning whether he would rather the Majors face the Attack or the Ice in the semifinal. “The one that comes out of there the most beat up,” Cameron said. “It comes down to how we play. That’s the biggest factor we have to focus on. Regardless of who it is, it will be a challenge.” We know it will be Kootenay. Let’s hope the game is a little more thrilling than the round-robin game involving both teams, which was a snorefest ... Said Ice coach Kris Knoblauch: “The difference (on Friday) will be special teams.” ... Former London Knights Corey Perry and Danny Syvret, who won the Memorial Cup win in 2005, watched the game together from a private box. Maple Leafs forward Colby Armstrong watched from a seat in the stands. Armstrong won the Cup in 2001 with Red Deer ... Only one team that has won the tiebreaker has gone on to win the tournament. That happened in 2009, when the resilient Windsor Spitfires won in Rimouski. There have been seven other tiebreakers, and from those, the winner has played in the final once. That was in 2002, when Victoriaville lost to Kootenay.