By: Mitchell Fox
The Mississauga Steelheads found themselves a step behind from the opening faceoff Sunday afternoon, falling 6-2 to the Barrie Colts in a game that started out with a bang.
The Colts scored four goals in the first nine minutes of the game, taking ahold of a 4-2 lead and never looking back. Canadian world junior and Los Angeles Kings prospect Brandt Clarke led the way with a hat trick, while Beau Jelsma added three points and Ben West shut the door in the Colts’ crease.
Here are some takeaways from an underwhelming night for the Steelheads at Paramount Fine Foods Centre.
Pucks find the net early
The Colts opened the scoring a minute into the game with a dagger of a wrist shot from Beau Jelsma, setting the tone for a wild first half of the first period. There were five goals on the scoreboard less than six minutes into the game, and another was added by Brandt Clarke a little less than three minutes later on the powerplay.
The opening frame was a struggle for Alessio Beglieri, who was pulled for Ryerson Leenders following Barrie’s fourth goal. The Swiss netminder has been a difference-maker all season for the Steelheads and looked really good in three-straight victories since returning from the World Juniors, but Sunday was not his night.
Though he did not have much of a chance on the first two Colts goals thanks to troublesome turnovers and impressive shots from Jelsma and Carter Lowe, Beglieri likely would have liked to have both of Clarke’s first period goals back. The fourth goal in particular was a back-breaker, as a shot from the point squeaked its way through the Steelheads’ goaltender’s arm and trickled over the goal line.
Steelheads head coach James Richmond said the team would like not to allow long-distance shots for goals, but he was not overly concerned with his goaltending, pointing out that Beglieri was “unbelievable” in the third period of Friday’s game and in the two games prior.
“Today he had an off day,” said Richmond. “What's wrong was saying the goalie had an off day?”
At the other end of the ice, the Steelheads did find a way to beat Ben West in the first period, but not after that. The Colts’ backup goaltender came away with his seventh victory of the season thanks to some key saves at key times, including flashing the glove at least once on Porter Martone in the second period.
Steelheads didn’t get the bounces on home ice
The Steelheads fell on the wrong side of a high-strung game on Sunday, as the puck just seemed to find the Colts’ sticks instead of Mississauga ones. The game was sloppy for most of 60 minutes and both teams struggled with turnovers, but the Steelheads had less luck taking advantage of loose pucks in the offensive zone than their opponent.
The Colts’ first two goals came on shots created off of turnovers, while the Steelheads could not seem to get the puck to high-danger areas for portions of the game. They did get goals thanks to a deflection by Mason Zebeski and a shorthanded breakaway for James Hardie, but 33 shots did not create the opportunities or goals they might have hoped for.
Richmond said he did not think the game felt like one that should have ended 6-2.
“I liked our effort. I liked some of the execution we were doing,” he said. “We gave up four goals on seven shots. That can't happen.”
Still, Richmond was glad his team did not cave and said he thought they had some decent chances, especially in the second period.
“It's a young group, so we get to teach them stay with it,” said Richmond. “And we did.”
Steelheads’ fourth line found a spark early
The Steelheads’ fourth line of Mason Zebeski, Lucas Karmiris and Brice Cooke not only got on the scoreboard on Sunday, but captured some attention with their play with and without the puck.
Though a penalty to Cooke in the third period came at the end of a tough shift for the trio, just about every other shift they took featured something to appreciate. They combined for four shots and were noticeable most of all on the forecheck, creating some havoc with their high-energy style and effective positioning.
While Karmiris was the one who earned some powerplay time, Zebeski had probably the most noteworthy performance of the bunch. The rookie found the back of the net with a deflection of a Chas Sharpe wrist shot a little over a minute into the game and never looked back, showing his speed and tenacity in the offensive zone and coming up with a couple of important blocked shots in his own zone.
Zebeski was awarded the third star of the game for his efforts.
Richmond said he thought the team had some struggles on defence and in net, but he was happy with the performance throughout the lineup.
“I wasn't unhappy with any one of our lines,” said Richmond. “We were decent.”
Steelheads look to rebound immediately on the road
With the loss on Sunday, the Steelheads saw a three-game win streak – their first since October – broken. The season has certainly had its ups and downs for Mississauga, but there is an air of confidence around a young squad featuring a number of new additions that have already looked like good fits for the team.
Richmond and company will hope for some of the new guys to chip in on the scoreboard on Monday, when they will take on the Erie Otters at their home rink. The team will travel across the border tonight and set their sights on a 2 P.M. puck drop.
Richmond’s last words after the game?
“Get on the bus and get ready for Erie.”