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Steelheads Playoffs Takeaways: Mississauga miss mark in overtime thriller, face 2-0 deficit to Wolves


BY: MITCHELL FOX


The Mississauga Steelheads fell 6-5 in overtime in game two of their first-round OHL playoffs series against the Sudbury Wolves on Saturday at Paramount Fine Foods Centre, putting them behind 2-0 in the series.


The Steelheads took a 3-1 lead into the first intermission but the game was flipped on its head when goaltender Ryerson Leenders left with an injury. 


A one-goal difference heading into the third period made it clear the game would come down to the wire. Lucas Karmiris gave the Steelheads a 5-4 lead with under three minutes to go, but Sudbury evened things up with their net empty to force overtime. Kocha Delic scored his hat trick goal just 2:33 into the extra frame to send Sudbury back to home ice with two wins.


Here are some takeaways from Mississauga’s incomplete bounce-back in game two, and potentially the last Steelheads game at PFFC.


Steelheads bitten by overtime curse in playoffs too

The Steelheads had trouble winning in overtime this season—they won just one of nine games in the extra period. Steelheads head coach and general manager James Richmond joked in the regular season his team was lucky the playoffs would not have three-on-three overtime but it turned out the issue could appear in a different form.


The Steelheads took an early lead and were the better team but a few defensive mistakes combined with the fatigue of penalty and injury trouble meant Sudbury’s hard pushback could overcome the deficit. The Wolves got back into the game about halfway through, when Leenders came out for Ivankovic and they scored only minutes later. From there, the Wolves took over.


“We started well,” Richmond said. “Some bad penalties again got us into trouble and they got back in it.”


The Wolves’ 18-5 advantage in shots on goal in the third period demonstrated how dominant they were while chasing a lead. It felt like the Wolves could not only tie the game but win it in regulation.


“That's a high-scoring team. They win 6-5, they're okay with that,” said Richmond. 


The Steelheads almost found a way to win when Lucas Karmiris scored to give them a late 5-4 lead but Evan Konyen ripped a one-timer for his second goal of the game just over a minute later. That play saw the Steelheads fail to get the puck out of their zone—a recurring theme in the game—and get caught out of position.


“Our guy overextended in the d-zone and it opened up the middle of the ice. Then you got to try to block it…great shot,” Richmond said of the late game-tying goal.


In overtime, a defensive miscue and a failed attempt to clear the puck resulted in Kocha Delic finishing his hat trick and his team’s rout of the Steelheads on home ice. 


Richmond said that moment was all “just a bad play,” which he has said about many late and overtime goals this year—the Steelheads have just seemed to buckle in those moments.


“The last goal shouldn't happen,” he said. “Our guy comes back and takes out our [defenceman]. Come back to your spot and that doesn't happen.”


Now, though his team gave a “better effort,” Richmond says it is all about moving on.


“The game is behind us now, so we have to go in and win game three,” he said.


Steelheads flip the script from game one… for two periods

On Thursday, Sudbury scored just 1:56 into the game after a defensive mistake opened an opportunity for Landon McCallum. On Saturday, a similar situation went the other way—a defensive error by the Wolves and a smooth play up the ice by the Steelhead led to Angus MacDonell’s goal 2:22 into the game.


Similarly, the Steelheads changed things up by bringing the energy and effort level Richmond wanted from the start.


“I think the waters were too calm last game, so we wanted to ruffle the waters today and I thought we did a good job of it,” he said.


From the quick start and MacDonell’s early goal, the Steelheads built up some momentum. Despite another first period filled with penalties, Mississauga rolled their way to a 3-1 lead. They looked fast, tenacious and like they knew every goal counted against the Wolves.


“We had better push back, we played with better speed,” said Richmond.


Entering a series against a team who have shown more offensive prowess than defensive stability this season, the Steelheads had to feel they should be able to create offence in the middle of the ice. After a dud on Thursday, Saturday saw that wish come true.


“I liked our energy. I liked our pace. I liked our compete,” said Richmond, comparing to game one.


In the end, the energy the Steelheads showed early was not enough. As the game went on, the energy subsided and they let the Wolves dictate the direction of the play in the third period. They just made too many mistakes to get a win.


Richmond said for game three, they have to build on the speed and desperation they showed on Saturday.


“We’ve got to be better defensively, but yeah, that's exactly how we have to play,” Richmond said.

 

Physicality, frustration worked for the Wolves

As was made clear over six regular season games this season, these two teams have no love for each other. It came out in its true form almost immediately on Saturday.


Thursday’s penalty-filled first period was the result of sloppy penalties, while Saturday’s saw frustrated ones, a fight and a five-minute major penalty. There were also a lot of post-whistle scrums and slashes or cross-checks behind the play. 


The Wolves would benefit most from this.


The Steelheads’ control in the first period had Sudbury frustrated. But the Wolves had no problem being in that position. They play a physical game and work well from down in a game, when they can throw everything they have, physically and offensively, at their opponents.


Early in the game, while leading 1-0, the Steelheads had their top three offensive players in the box—Luke Misa for kneeing, Porter Martone for roughing after starting a scrum and Angus MacDonell for fighting. Two of Sudbury’s top players, MacDonell’s fight partner David Goyette and Dalibor Dvorsky, were also penalized, but that moment was a sign of things to come.


Gabriel Chiarot took an undisciplined penalty late in the first when he caught Konyen with a high cross-check, resulting in a five-minute major penalty. The Steelheads’ penalty kill put on a tour-de-force in killing that penalty but losing a player would hurt later. 


Another example came in the second period when MacDonell was called for roughing as Martone was on a breakaway. Wolves defenceman Noah Van Vliet got a penalty as well, but if Martone’s break had resulted in a goal, the Steelheads might have fared better in the game. Instead, Goyette scored on the ensuing four-on-four, which favoured Sudbury’s high-skilled transition game.


In the third period, it became clear where the Steelheads lost the physical battle. Delic’s goal to break the lead Mississauga held for 41 minutes came moments after the Steelheads bench erupted at a non-call on a late hit on Martone. The Wolves took advantage of the referees’ whistles going away as they snatched control of the game and wore down the Steelheads, who were also down players.


Leenders, Boudreau injuries provide cause for concern

The biggest concern for Mississauga ahead of game three is the status of Ryerson Leenders. 


The Steelheads goaltender left the game about eight minutes into the second period, skating off without an obvious injury. Many in the press box missed the play where the injury occurred but Richmond offered what he saw after the game. He said the same player who hit Leenders on Thursday once again took him out in his crease on Saturday.


“He was deliberately taken out in the crease,” he said. “Yesterday was kind of a head against the post. He was fine there. Today he wasn't.”


Jack Ivankovic took the crease for Mississauga, making his OHL playoff debut in a difficult situation. He allowed five goals but made 24 saves, including many high-danger and frantic ones in the third period. 


“Anytime a goalie comes off the bench without knowing he's going in is difficult,” said Richmond, adding the fact Ivankovic is 16 years old and it was his first playoff game only made things more difficult. 


Still, Richmond hopes his goalie will look more comfortable on Monday.


“Expecting him to be a lot better in game three,” he said. 


Another Steelhead was hurt only a short time after Leenders. In the same game he scored a goal, Marc Boudreau left the game with an injury, which Richmond later clarified was a charley horse suffered after taking a hit. With Chiarot already kicked out, the Steelheads found themselves down to 10 forwards with a hungry Wolves team breaking down their back.


“Guys are playing too much and get dragged down. And if you get into penalty trouble like we were, it's even more difficult,” Richmond summed up.


The Steelheads bench boss said his team faced a lot of adversity throughout the game but believed they had more in them to overcome it.


“It's all adversity in the playoffs,” he said. “You’ve got to figure it out.”


3 Stars of the Game

1. Kocha Delic

The undisputed star of the show on Saturday was Kocha Delic, who scored a hat trick including the goal to tie the game at 4-4 in the third period and the game-winner in overtime. Two of the goals featured an electric shot, while the other came as a result of his positioning in front of the net on the power play.


Delic also stood out for the speed he played with all game, as he played a massive role in zone entries for the Wolves. Along with opening up ice for his team to work with, he created his own opportunities to use his shot, resulting in a game-high 10 shots on goal.


2. Evan Konyen

Evan Konyen had two goals for the Wolves on Saturday, including the integral game-tying goal in the final minute. Konyen found room to unleash a one-timer to erase the deficit created by Lucas Karmiris’ late goal, showing the Wolves were not going to take no for an answer.


Konyen also stood out for his grit. He took several hits and sticks—including Chiarot’s major penalty—but also delivered checks of his own, especially on the forecheck. This led to chances for him and his teammates, which included nine shots on goal of his own.


3. Lucas Karmiris

The top player for the Steelheads on Saturday has to have been Lucas Karmiris. The Brantford product scored late in the game to give Mississauga hope, which was a reward for the way he played all game.


Karmiris was a force in all three zones in the game and at the faceoff dot, where he went 10/19. He was one of their best player on zone exits and puck movement through the neutral zone and had a team-high six shots on goal. He also set up a few dangerous chances for his teammates. 


Karmiris also played well defensively, often making it back as the first back-checker and breaking up plays with his stick and body. 


H.M. David Goyette, Luke Misa


 

The series will now head to Sudbury for games three and four, in which the Steelheads will look to flip the script completely by winning both away games. Richmond said being on the road did not add anything to focus on.


“We need to win the next one, and then worry about the one after that,” he said. “That's it.”


Game three will take place on Monday at Sudbury Community Arena. Puck drop is set for 7:05 p.m.


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