By: Mitchell Fox
The Mississauga Steelheads defeated the Kingston Frontenacs 4-3 in overtime Sunday afternoon, thanks in large part to a hat trick from Owen Beck.
The Steelheads were playing their third game in as many days, having defeated the Kitchener Rangers Friday night and fallen to the Hamilton Bulldogs in overtime Saturday. Though fatigue did appear to be a factor early, they fought to the end, notching the victory and improving their record to 11-4-2-0.
Here are some takeaways from a back-and-forth game in Mississauga.
Owen Beck’s hat trick propels Steelheads to victory
Owen Beck was the Steelheads’ best player Sunday afternoon, notching a hat trick and earning the First Star of the Game. The Montreal Canadiens prospect is a regular feature in our takeaways and on the highlight reel, bringing a powerful wrist shot, silky hands and a strong two-way game. Today was no exception, as the Steelheads’ center found the back of the net in almost every situation: on the powerplay, at even-strength and in 3-on-3 overtime.
Beck’s pair of second period goals gave the Steelheads control of the game, turning a 1-0 deficit into a 2-1 lead, but it would not last long; the Frontenacs scored less than a minute later, then again near the end of the frame. After the Steelheads fought their way back, Beck was a factor once again. In overtime, with the score at 3-3, Beck let loose another rocket from the high slot, hitting the twine and earning his team the victory.
Beck said after the game the words “overtime hat trick” were pretty cool.
“I can't say I wasn't thinking about it on the bench,” he added.
Steelheads head coach James Richmond said Beck’s shot is special because of its power and his excellent release.
“He doesn't need a lot of time or space to get it off,” Richmond says. “And when he does get it off, it's a lot of power behind it, so it catches goalies off guard.”
Beck now leads the team in both goals and points, with 13 goals and 22 points in 15 games.
Zander Veccia turns increased ice-time into important goal
The other Steelhead who got a puck passed Frontenacs goaltender Ivan Zhigalov Sunday afternoon was Zander Veccia. Veccia’s tally early in the third period was pivotal in the game, tying it up before both teams locked it down to close out regulation.
The winger’s strong play in recent games has been noticed and rewarded by Richmond, who mentioned Veccia played the most minutes of any forward in the first period.
“He's been playing well, he's been playing with a lot of effort,” Richmond said. “So he gets rewarded with some extra minutes.”
Veccia turned the extended ice-time, most of which came alongside Beck or Luca Del Bel Belluz, to his advantage, leading the team with six shots on goal in the game.
Don’t forget Ethan Del Mastro
Another Steelheads deserving of mention was captain Ethan Del Mastro. The Chicago Blackhawks prospect was his usual self, providing lock-down defence, smooth skating and even some offensive production.
He was awarded the game’s third star for his performance, which included three assists.
His play in overtime was especially noteworthy. A couple of minutes before assisting the game-winner, he made an exceptional play to track down a streaking Francesco Arcuri and knock the puck loose without taking a penalty.
Del Mastro may not be the most eye-catching player in every game, but he is almost always a factor for the Steelheads.
D-Zone turnovers a problem for Mississauga
One aspect of Sunday’s game that the Steelheads will likely hope to address is a slow start. Though the first period was not a disaster, the Frontenacs did come away from the frame with a 1-0 lead. The Steelheads just did not seem to have the speed and swift puck movement they usually have, though they found it later in the game.
One issue for Mississauga in the first period was puck movement. Alongside a few errant passes in the neutral and offensive zones, the Steelheads struggled with breaking out of their own zone. No matter whether communication, tired legs (it was their third game in 72 hours) or execution are to blame, failed attempts to reverse the puck and a few close calls on pucks thrown up the middle of the defensive zone will likely be problems to address for head coach James Richmond.
Fortunately for the Steelheads, the turnovers did not lead to much (goaltender Alessio Beglieri was strong when he needed to be) and their opponent dealt with their own troubles with puck movement.
The fact that the Frontenacs were playing with only 16 skaters, missing names such as Chicago Blackhawks prospect Paul Ludwinski and defenceman Alec Belanger, might have played into their struggles with giving up the puck, though the Steelheads’ forecheck was a force to be reckoned with in the third period as well.
Nevertheless, in what was something of a sloppy game all around (pucks were bouncing around all night), the Steelheads can be glad to have cleaned up their play and taken control when they needed to.
Another victory, but Richmond wants more
The Steelheads’s victory Sunday meant they finished a three-game weekend with five of six possible points in the standings, moving them into third place in the Ontario Hockey League’s Eastern Conference. Beck admitted playing three games in 72 hours can be a challenge, but there are ways through it.
“You've just got to be able to get up every night, get your legs going and get, get a few good shifts into you,” he said. “Things start to feel a little bit better after that.”
Despite the victory, Richmond still believes the Steelheads have more to give.
“Yeah, we have control, we're out-possessing teams, we're out-shooting teams and we're out-chancing teams from the areas that we want a chance,” Richmond said. “But it comes down to the effort, you know, how much you care about getting scored on or not.”
Richmond says the key to getting the team going to start games is challenging their effort.
“Your effort level has to go up in this league or else you're gonna lose hockey games,” he said.
Richmond will hope his team can bring that desired effort level next week as the Steelheads take on the seventh-ranked Peterborough Petes and their newest addition Brennan Othmann, then the league-leading Ottawa 67’s.