MISSISSAUGA, Ont. - Once again, Dave Cameron's team came up short when it mattered most.
The Mississauga St. Michael's Majors coach suffered another devastating defeat Sunday as his team dropped the final of the MasterCard Memorial Cup 3-1 to the Saint John Sea Dogs.
"You never get used to losing," Cameron said. "But the losing toughens you. Right now I feel like a 10-cent steak."
It's the Majors' second championship defeat on home ice in two weeks after Mississauga lost Game 7 of the Ontario Hockey League final to the Owen Sound Attack 3-2 in overtime.
"The kids care so much. They put their hearts and souls into this. I thought we deserved better, but it doesn't always happen," Cameron said. "Life's not always fair."
For Cameron and star forward Casey Cizikas, it's their third heartbreaking loss of the season.
The pair were part of Canada's entry at 2011 world junior hockey championship, a team that blew a 3-0 third-period lead in a 5-3 gold-medal loss to Russia.
Cizikas, who had an assist on the Majors' lone goal Sunday, underperformed at the Memorial Cup, registering just a pair of goals and an assist in five games.
"You leave everything on the line, play your hearts out and you have chances to win, but you don't," Cizikas said. "You just got to learn from it and build off it. That's what good hockey players are made of. They can take the losses and create them into positives."
The Majors were trying to become the first host team to win the Cup since the 2007 Vancouver Giants.
Despite the loss, there were positives for Mississauga. Devante Smith-Pelly, a second-round draft pick of the Anaheim Ducks, had a standout tournament with three goals and three assists.
But it's the two crushing defeats on home ice that will haunt him this summer.
"Now it's the end of the season and we weren't able to win either one of our goals," Smith-Pelly said. "After we lost Game 7, we shrugged it off and realized we still had the Memorial Cup to play for.
"To come up empty, it's the worst feeling in the world."
After a successful season, the Majors couldn't win the games that mattered most on home ice.
Mississauga finished first overall in the regular season and rolled through the first three rounds of the OHL playoffs, going 12-1 before the final against Owen Sound. After going up 2-0 in the series, the Majors lost four of the last five games to the Attack, including Game 7.
The Majors avenged that defeat by beating the Attack in round-robin play of the Memorial Cup, but couldn't get past the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League-champion Sea Dogs, who also beat Mississauga in the tournament opener.
"When it's all said and done, you take the emotion of it, scrape everything away and ask yourself if your team left anything on the ice," Cameron said. "My team didn't leave anything on the ice.
"That doesn't eliminate that sick feeling of losing, but it doesn't stay with you as long."