top of page

Steelheads Playoff Takeaways: Steelheads season ends at hands of Wolves in game five

Players in blue Mississauga Steelheads jerseys raise their sticks int he air as they skate around. The scoreboard above them says 6-2 for the opponent.
The Mississauga Steelheads took time to hug their overage players and salute the fans after losing in game five of the first round of the OHL playoffs. (Mitchell Fox/INTERMISSION SPORTS)


The Mississauga Steelheads’ season came to an end on Friday night with a 6-2 loss to the Sudbury Wolves, resulting in a 4-1 defeat in the series. It was the franchise’s last game at Paramount Fine Foods Centre and with the Mississauga label.

The win means the Wolves move on to the second round. Their opponent has not been determined yet.

The Steelheads showed a lot of fight throughout the series and the game but were ultimately undone by their own penalty troubles and the strength of the Wolves’ offence, especially their power play.

An early goal by Alex Pharand set the scene for the Wolves to take control of the game, which looked bound to happen when the game hit 2-0. But the Steelheads worked their way back and were able to project their style of play on the game for some of the first and second periods. Ultimately, however, a couple of power play goals gave the Wolves the lead and momentum to cruise to a victory.

Here are five takeaways from the last Steelheads game in Mississauga.

Steelheads’ youth shines through in lack of discipline

One of Mississauga’s biggest issues all season has been staying out of the penalty box. 

Between unnecessary penalties behind or after the play, going a bit too far with hits and getting caught falling behind and reaching, they have found themselves in the penalty box a lot more than they would hope—they were the second-most penalized team in the league in the regular season and currently lead the playoffs with 95 penalty minutes in five games. 

The Steelheads’ discipline got better as the regular season went on—their penalty minutes fell from about 16 per game in October and November and 18 per game in December to about 12 per game in January, February and March—but the issues reappeared in a spirited playoff battle with the Wolves. 

On Friday, the main perpetrator was Luke Dragusica, who was called for a delay of game penalty and an interference penalty, and served a too many men call after he jumped on the ice too early. The rookie defenceman has provided a strong physical presence all year and in fact played some of his best defensive hockey in the series, but the penalties were indicative of a lack of composure.

This was a trend in the game and the series. Gabriel Chiarot, another rookie, received a game misconduct in game two for a cross-check to the face of Evan Konyen. Parker von Richter and Stevie Leskovar’s back-to-back five-minute majors in game four were a major turning point in that game and the series. 

Steelheads head coach and general manager James Richmond said his team knew they needed to avoid penalties to beat the Wolves, but they did not.

“We went into [the series] saying, ‘Hey, stay out of the box, and we win the series.’ And we went to the box too many times and we lost the series,” said Richmond.

On Friday, the Steelheads took eight penalties, resulting in five power plays for the Wolves. Sudbury scored on four of them, improving to 11/28 in the five-game series. 

Richmond said he was not worried about his goaltending before or after the game and the 6-2 scoreline was not reflective of how the game was played overall.

“We lost the game on PK,” he said.

“We played really well at five-on-five. There's no question about it. Unfortunately, the whole series didn't stay at five-on-five,” he added.

The Steelheads do not have anything to improve on in that sense for a while with their season over, but surely Richmond and his coaching staff will be looking for their players to mature on and off the ice and find ways to avoid taking so many penalties next year.

No lack of heart from the Steelheads

The Steelheads fought their way to the very end of the series, including in each game. Even game one’s flat performance featured some push-back and lots of energy on the bench, and all of the games after that had even more.

On Friday, the Steelheads showed a lot of passion and emotion throughout the game. From battling for pucks in the corner to blocking shots and taking hits, they were no pushovers. They also were passionate on the bench, getting heated at calls or non-calls from the referees and banging their sticks on the bench to get their teammates going in the third period.

“Our guys showed great compete,” Richmond said.

In the end, the game brought heartbreak, but it brought a lot of heart and effort out of players.

Richmond thought neither the game on Friday nor the series overall were lopsided.

“I know the score didn't look like it, but we had a real strong game today,” Richmond said. “Even though it's a 4-1 series, we didn't get blown out.” 

The Steelheads found themselves in a surprising and unique position this season playing in the series they did. The Eastern Conference was so close finishing anywhere between first and sixth was still possible in the final week or two, but the Steelheads ended up with perhaps their toughest matchup with the Wolves. It was inevitably a prove-it stage and a learning experience.

Richmond pointed out that the team, one of the youngest in the OHL, was not expected to even make the playoffs before training camp ended. They started well and looked like a contender, then stumbled through December and January before battling for the top of the East in February and March. They finished with home-ice advantage, which is no small deal.

“What these guys have accomplished is pretty damn good,” Richmond said. “I'm proud of them. I hate losing, but I'm proud of them.”

Richmond said outright his group of players overachieved this season.

“Nobody expected a young team like this could compete in the OHL. I think we showed a lot of people wrong,” he said.

Offence in spurts was not enough for Mississauga 

The Steelheads kept pace with the Wolves for good portions of this game and the series, as their speed was evident, their transition play had bright moments and they were able to set up a cycle in the offensive zone at times. Jack Van Volsen's goal—the last Steelheads tally in Mississauga—featured a shifty two-on-one play by Marc Boudreau.

But overall, the offence was inconsistent and not enough, especially against Sudbury.

On Friday, Mississauga was the better team in the second half of the first period and first half of the second period, as well as segments of the rest of the game. With penalties, missed chances and defensive miscues mixed in, however, they found themselves vulnerable to the Wolves’ opportunistic style of play for a good chunk of the game.

Offensive consistency has been a struggle for the Steelheads all season long, which can undoubtedly be attributed to their young roster and energetic style of play. In some games, like in game one, they did not have their legs or knack for the net at all. In others, like game three, almost everything clicks. But like in game two, Friday saw the Steelheads lose control and momentum for whole halves of periods.

Playing an offensive powerhouse like the Wolves was not the ideal situation for the trout in these playoffs. They may have fared better against the Brantford Bulldogs or Ottawa 67’s, though no one will ever know. What is certain is the team will hope a more experienced group next year will be able to keep up offensively with teams like the Wolves regularly.

Wolves depth proved too great for Steelheads

The Wolves did plenty of what they do best in this game and series: score goals. 

A decent defensive effort in games one and three meant the Steelheads kept the Sudbury offence relatively quiet but in the other three games of the series, their top talent was unbeatable. 

David Goyette had four points on Friday, while Dalibor Dvorsky had three assists and Nick DeAngelis, a defenceman, had two goals and an assist. Goyette, Dvorsky, Quentin Musty and Evan Konyen were nearly impossible for the Steelheads to stop all series with their dynamic mix of speed strength and puck skills, while DeAngelis’ shot from the point proved to be a dangerous weapon on the power play.  

Richmond said though agreed with the take his team might have outplayed the Wolves at five-on-five for much of the series, he could not discount just how good their opponent was.

“They're loaded,” he said before congratulating the Wolves. “Good on them.”

Steelheads turn their focus to the next chapter

While the Wolves move on to the second round, the Steelheads will have the sun set on one season before looking to the horizon for next season’s—potentially even brighter—sun.

The first order of business is sending off Mississauga’s three overage players, Chas Sharpe, Marc Boudreau and Dean Loukus. The three players were awarded the three stars of the game on Friday as a tribute to their time with the Steelheads. Sharpe was integral to their play all season and was solid in this series with four points in five games, Boudreau scored on Friday as he put on a strong, energetic performance against his former team and Loukus made an impact as a composed two-way forward all series long.

Aside from the overage players, the likelihood is most, if not all, of the rest of the Steelheads will be back with the team. Angus MacDonell is a Dallas Stars prospect but feels like an unlikely NHL fit yet. Most of the rest of the team is 16, 17 or 18 years old. At least seven players will be preparing for the NHL Draft this year, while those in the bottom six will look to have strong offseasons to boost their ice time and performance next year.

For now, the team can reflect on a tough battle with the Wolves and how it capped off an inspired season for the trout.

“It stings right now. We're gonna learn from it and be better next year,” said Richmond. “You learn more from losing than you do from winning.”

“We’ve got great goalies, we’ve got a great strong D core coming back and [a] real good forward group coming back. So we're gonna use it,” he added.

Another unique part of the end of this season for the Steelheads is it marks the end of the franchise’s time in Mississauga and at Paramount Fine Foods Centre. After the offseason, they will start the 2024-25 season at CAA Centre in Brampton. Though it is only a few minutes up the street, it means the start of something new, and opportunities for players, staff and fans alike.

“We’re looking forward to it,” Richmond said, mentioning the new facilities for players and staff.

Players of the game:

1. Nick DeAngelis

With seven points, Nick DeAngelis was the Wolves’ most effective defenceman in the entire series and it showed in spades on Friday. His two power play goals made an enormous difference in the game and were the result of his powerful shot. His ability to shoot through traffic proved effective against the Steelheads’ penalty kill and at five-on-five, where he also played a part in the Wolves’ lethally quick puck movement on the counter-attack.

2. David Goyette

David Goyette won the OHL scoring title for a reason—he is one of the league’s most prolific offensive players at five-on-five and on the power play. His four points on Friday were not super obvious necessarily, but he made every play he made seem routine and was impossible to miss watching the Wolves’ counter-attack.

3. Marcus Vandenberg

Vandenberg’s 28 saves on 30 shots are not ground-breaking numbers, but he was very solid, especially given the circumstances. The 19-year-old did not have the best regular season and was chosen as the second goalie behind Jakub Vondras to start the series but he came out in an important game and sealed the deal for Sudbury. He made some key saves to bail out his team’s mistakes, including two big scrambling saves on Parker von Richter and Angus MacDonell in the first period, and his positioning high in the crease proved difficult for the Steelheads to get around.


bottom of page