By: Mitchell Fox
The Mississauga Steelheads fell victim to a tough opponent Friday night, losing 7-3 to the Peterborough Petes at Paramount Fine Foods Centre.
The game was Pink at the Rink night for the Steelheads, with the team decked out in pink-and-white uniforms in honour of breast cancer awareness. The festivities included having breast cancer survivors, including members of Steelheads players’ families, receive recognition before dropping the ceremonial faceoff. Many fans - including many from minor hockey leagues - were in on the affair as well, making sure pink filled the arena.
While a Steelheads victory might have made the night even more special for fans, it was a delightful occasion, warming hearts on a cold night in Mississauga.
Here are a few takeaways from a fascinating game between the Steelheads and Petes.
Petes’ NHL prospect lights it up, Steelheads’ stars left off scoresheet
The star of the game was Petes forward Chase Stillman, who scored four goals and added an assist, bringing his season total to 16 points in 17 games.
The New Jersey Devils prospect was a force to be reckoned with, giving the Petes their first three goals of the game and a lead they would not look back from.
Stillman found different ways to score too, tallying a powerplay goal, a lucky floater, a redirection in the slot and a breakaway finish. He was the game’s most noticeable player, creating scoring chances on nearly every shift and showing his ability to put the puck in the net.
Another of the Petes’ NHL-drafted players, Brennan Othmann, was the only other multi-point player in the game, notching two assists to get to three points in three games since being traded to the Petes from the Flint Firebirds.
So for at least some of the Petes’ stars, everything was clicking. For the Steelheads’ stars, however, this was not the case.
While Owen Beck did score the Steelheads’ third goal (bringing his season total to 15 goals) and James Hardie and Luca Del Bel Belluz each added an assist, the usual suspects were not quite at their usual best, especially in the second period. The lack of finesse from the Steelheads was evident, something players such as Beck, Del Bel Belluz and captain Ethan Del Mastro usually bring in spades.
Del Mastro, the usually steady defender, even found himself on the end of some uncharacteristic turnovers and ended the game with a -2 rating.
To Richmond, the team can find a learning lesson in bouncing back from tough goals against or a mounting deficit. He hoped for more from his best players in particular.
“In sports, you're gonna need your top guys to push back when you give up a bad goal or two goals,” Richmond said. “Our top end guys didn't push back tonight.”
Second period: the back-breaker
While the Steelheads did start the game strong, the second period saw the wheels come off. It started 21 seconds into the period, when a fluky shot from Stillman found its way past everybody, including goaltender Alessio Beglieri en route to the back of the net.
Richmond said the goal was a “fluke,” but the team needed to not lose track of their game.
“That happens in hockey every now and then. But then you have to push back. We didn't push back,” he said.
Richmond said the team was good at five-on-five in the first period, but lost their way in the second period, losing track of defensive assignments, not finishing checks and giving up clean breakouts. The result was four goals for the Petes, and a large deficit to fight back against in the third period.
To Richmond, the lopsided period could be chalked up to missing effort as well as execution.
“The second period got away on us,” he said. “We didn't have the compete level that we needed to have to play against one of the top teams in the league.”
Especially given Richmond also brought up his team’s effort last weekend after an overtime victory against the Kingston Frontenacs, the Steelheads will undoubtedly hope to change the narrative in upcoming games.
Another lopsided loss for Mississauga
Though the Steelheads' 11-5-2-0 record and placement in the top ten teams in the league indicates a positive start to the season, a concern for Richmond and company may come in the way that their losses have come.
Among the losses are a 6-2 loss to the Sudbury Wolves, a 6-3 loss to the Guelph Storm, an 8-4 loss to the Wolves again and tonight’s 7-3 loss. While some empty net goals and score effects more than likely played into the lopsided scores, Richmond did express some concern.
“The games that we've lost now, we’ve given up too many goals,” Richmond said.
While it is difficult to identify exactly where these struggles may come from, the team’s defensive play is right to be under some scrutiny. Turnovers, especially in their own zone, have been a problem for the Steelheads and so has clearing loose pucks out of the slot. They do not give up a lot of chances, but they do tend to fall victim to some high-danger chances, as was seen Friday night.
Steelheads need to challenge tough opponents
The Petes were undoubtedly a good team coming into Friday night’s affair, especially with the addition of Brennan Othmann less than a week ago. Still, the Steelheads would not be blamed for coming away from the game with a sour taste in their mouth.
With the loss, the Steelheads find themselves three points back of the Petes, good for fourth in the Ontario Hockey League’s Eastern Conference standings.
Though there is lots of time left in the season, the Steelheads will hope for better results against top-tier opponents like the Petes as the season goes forward.
“It's important to challenge every team, but especially the higher end teams,” Richmond said.
One of those teams is the league-leading Ottawa 67’s, who the Steelheads match up against Sunday afternoon at Paramount Fine Foods Centre.
Richmond said he hopes to see more from his team in that game.
“I would hope that it's our strongest effort of the season,” Richmond said.