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Shugg focused on chance for history

by Bill Hoppe /
MISSISSAUGA, Ont. -- From his corner seat inside a crowded Colisée de Rimouski two years ago, Justin Shugg watched the Windsor Spitfires' incredible four-goal third-period comeback in a memorable MasterCard Memorial Cup tiebreaker game.
Shugg, who had broken his collarbone four days earlier in the tournament, remembers the bittersweet feeling he felt after the Spitfires erased a two-goal deficit and beat the host Rimouski Oceanic 6-4.
"I was like, 'Shoot, I hope I can get this chance and play with these guys next year,'" Shugg, now a star with the Mississauga St. Michael's Majors, recently recalled. "They battled hard and they came back and they won it."
Three days later, following the Spitfires' 4-1 defeat of the Kelowna Rockets in the championship game, Windsor general manager Warren Rychel made the rookie right wing a promise.
"He promised that we were going to make (the Memorial Cup) the next year and we were going to win it the next year," Shugg said. "My role was going to be bigger with the hockey club. That's exactly how it panned out."
In 2010, the Spitfires won their second straight Memorial Cup, capped by a 9-1 rout of the host Brandon Wheat Kings in the championship game. Shugg had 2 goals, 7 points and plus-6 rating in the tournament.
"We got to raise the Cup together," Shugg said. "It was awesome."
Now the same player who once worried if he ever would play in a Memorial Cup again is gunning for his third consecutive title.
The Majors' 3-1 win against the Kootenay Ice on Friday clinched the host Majors a spot in Sunday's championship game against the Saint John Sea Dogs (7 p.m. ET, NHLN-US, Sportsnet) here at the Hershey Centre. The Majors won their last Memorial Cup in 1961.

"It's an unexplainable feeling to compete for another trophy on a national stage," Shugg said after the game.
The 19-year-old Shugg has a chance to become just the second player in the 93-year history of the Memorial Cup tournament to win three straight championships, joining Robert Savard, who earned two titles with the Cornwall Royals and one with the Kitchener Rangers from 1980-82.
Ryan Huska, Tyson Nash and Darcy Tucker, the only other players with three championships, won them with the Kamloops Blazers in 1992, 1994 and 1995.
"I've had a rich career in winnings," said Shugg, a 2010 fourth-round draft pick (No. 105) by the Carolina Hurricanes. "I've been with great organizations with great teams on the ice. I've been very fortunate for that."
Shugg's got his chance for the rare opportunity last Aug. 28, when he was traded with defenseman Marc Cantin by the rebuilding Spitfires to the Majors for four OHL draft picks. As the Memorial Cup host, the Majors were guaranteed a spot in the tournament.
"I wasn't really looking forward to a third chance until I did get traded," Shugg said. "If I went back to Windsor, we were going to have another good team and a shot, but when I got traded to Mississauga I knew there was a chance. A lot of people talk about three, but I'm happy to have one."
It was difficult leaving the Spitfires, who exceeded expectations this season by advancing to the OHL Western Conference finals.
"It's where I learned to play the game," Shugg said of Windsor. "I had a great relationship with everyone there. I still do. That's a tough place to leave after you win two championships. … I'm in a great spot right now and had a great year. I met a lot of nice people."
Majors captain Casey Cizikas, a New York Islanders prospect, said Shugg's presence has been vital to the Majors, an elite team that had no Memorial Cup winners on its roster before GM/coach Dave Cameron added Shugg and Cantin.
"It's an advantage having guys like that because they’ve been through this," said Cizikas, Shugg's center for most of the season. "They know what it takes to win. They know what it takes to keep that emotion down, because once you start getting all riled up, that's when you might go out, you might make a stupid hit, you might get caught out of position trying to make a hit.
"They just calm the room down. They know what type of emotion we need to go out there to be successful."
Shugg's offensive exploits have also been essential to the Majors' success. He had a team-high 41 goals and 87 points during the regular season, and then added 10 goals and 19 points during the OHL playoffs.
Teammates picked up the slack for Shugg on Friday. Anaheim Ducks prospect Devante Smith-Pelly scored the game's first two goals, and Chris DeSousa added an empty-net goal. Joe Antilla scored for the Ice with one second left in the second period.
Shugg, who has 1 goal and 2 points in the tournament, was scoreless Friday with two penalty minutes. He has other talents, however.
"(He's a) high-energy, up-and-down guy who competes hard every shift," NHL Central Scouting's Chris Edwards said. "He's a physical guy, doesn't back down from anything. I've seen him take on bigger guys, fight them. He's one of those guys that you love to have on your team. They do everything it takes to win."
Shugg has the proof.
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