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The 2011 MasterCard Memorial Cup event is officially underway in Mississauga. Three league champions along with the host club are looking to take home junior hockey's top prize....
The Mississauga St. Michael's Majors are joined by the Owen Sound Attack (OHL), Saint John Sea Dogs (QMJHL) and Kootenay Ice (WHL). The tournament opens Friday night with Mississauga and Saint John facing off at the Hershey Centre.
For Coach Mark Reeds and the Attack, they will need to come back down to earth following Sunday's euphoric OHL Championship victory in Mississauga. But Reeds has been to the big dance before, capturing the Memorial Cup as a member of the Peterborough Petes in 1979, the middle of three visits to the tournament playing for the Petes. "We enjoyed the moment, the evening, then gave our players a one day break and then we were back on the ice Tuesday. It's one step in the process and we're looking to move forward - it's about the next game, and the first shift of the next game."
The hometown Majors went through the exact opposite set of emotions following their overtime heartbreaker Sunday. "I'm still not allowed to play with anything sharp, can't wait to get a win - those counseling sessions are really expensive," said Majors boss Dave Cameron jokingly. "We absorbed it on Monday, anytime you lose a game with that much at stake it takes a little while to get over it because that's how emotional they are in terms of winning and when you don't you get that sick feeling in your stomach.
"We're over it and we're very fortunate we have a chance to eliminate some of that hurt and sick feeling you get when you lose a big game like that by getting right into the Memorial Cup."
The Kootenay Ice rolled through the Western Hockey League playoffs after being the fourth-seed in their conference through the regular season. But victories over powerhouses Saskatoon and Portland along with Medicine Hat and Moose Jaw brought them the Ed Chynoweth Cup. Despite being the lowest seed in their league, the Ice expect to put on a strong performance in Mississauga. "We feel we belong in this competition," said Kootenay Head Coach Kris Knoblauch. "We kind of gelled as a team as the season progressed. We didn't have quite the regular season these teams did, but we were able to play our best hockey when it counted most."
The Saint John Sea Dogs were highly-rated through the season in the Canadian Hockey League rankings, finishing atop the weekly CHL Top 10 list. "We're a confident team, we had an outstanding season with 58 wins tying the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League record. We had a lot of fun this season. It started right from the first day of training camp, we thought we had a chance to come to the Memorial Cup. We haven't reached our goal yet but we're halfway there, and the kids feel really confident."
Notable quotes: As always, Majors boss Dave Cameron can be quite quoteable during media gathering. The opening session was no exception.
"Sometimes when you sit here, the way things unfolded - you just seem like the odd duck. These three guys won their championships on the road in overtime, and I lost it at home in overtime. I'm the odd duck here, but welcome"
When asked who is the favourite in the tournament: "Like everything else, it's whoever the media says it is."
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