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So remember when you read about the Mississauga Majors being my darkhorse pick in the Eastern Conference earlier on this page? Yeah, well they're going to have to get their act together quick....
Those of us who have been watching Mississauga over the last month could tell they were struggling, but after watching the Majors self-destruct in a 4-2 loss to the Belleville Bulls on Friday night -- they're in trouble.
"We're off our game," said Majors head coach Dave Cameron. "We don't practice that way, and when we're on top our game we don't play that way. We're off our game and that's certainly no disrespect to Belleville."
The Majors took a 2-0 lead in the second period, before their undisciplined play got the better of them and they ran into penalty trouble. The Bulls went 3-for-8 on the power play, including two goals which were scored on a two-man advantage.
"There were too many penalties," said captain Cameron Gaunce, in only his second game back from a shoulder injury. "It doesn't matter how well you play on the penalty-kill if you're going to continue to give the other team 5-on-3's with the point-men like (the Bulls) have, then they're going to score goals."
Teams are always going to go through their ups and downs, that's a given, but with one game remaining in the regular season, the Majors sure picked a bad time for their downturn.
"You're always concerned when your team isn't playing to its potential, and it probably magnifies it this late in the year," said Cameron. "But I've always said as a coach -- when you get this late into the season and you're ready to start the playoffs, you're a hostage to your team... the onus is on them.
"But it's not a helpless feeling because I know they can snap out of it," he added. "It's not like you need a bolt of lightning or any voodoo, no, they're a good bunch, they care and they've played their best hockey against the best teams. And there's no reason to think they won't do it, but the onus is on them."
DEAR DAVE: If you lose at home to Niagara on Sunday, you might want to re-think your stance on voodoo. Just sayin'.
According to Gaunce, ending the season on a winning note will be big for the Majors currently fragile psyche.
"It's very important, not only for the players, it's important for everyone involved," said the blueliner. "Positive energy is a big thing going into the playoffs and we don't want to kind of back in -- we want to make sure we're in on a high note."
The Majors are 41-20-4-2, but are only 4-6 in their last 10 which includes losses to the last place Belleville Bulls and eighth place Sudbury Wolves. Cameron says the team has been driving hard in practice, but that hasn't translated into an improved game play.
"It's frustrating and it's puzzling," said Cameron.
The good news for the Majors are that they're healthy with both Gaunce and fellow defenceman Stuart Percy back in the lineup, though it sounds like they might have a little rust to shake off.
"Unfortunately I think yesterday (in the Majors 2-1 shootout win over Niagara) especially I was really fighting the puck," said Gaunce. "I thought my energy has been really good in the last two games, but I'm making mental mistakes I shouldn't be making right now."
From the sounds of things, it might be Gaunce trying to do too much, too soon.
"(Gaunce) just has to be careful that he doesn't think that every play he makes or every shift he plays, has to be perfect," said Cameron. "You have to let the puck to the work for you. As a defenceman the first play you see, 90 per cent of the time, is the right one -- just make it."
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