By: Mitchell Fox
The Mississauga Steelheads defeated the Windsor Spitfires 6-3 Saturday evening in their first game at home in almost two weeks.
The team hosted “Pucks N Paws Night”, a promotion which encouraged fans to bring their dogs to the game.
Here are some takeaways from a fun night at Paramount Fine Foods Centre.
Steelheads power past tough opponent in Spitfires
The Windsor Spitfires are one of the Ontario Hockey League’s top teams, sitting first in the Western Conference with a 9-2-3-0 record after Saturday. The defeat at the hands of the Steelheads was only their second regulation loss of the season.
Windsor’s skill was on display from puck drop. Steelheads goaltender Alessio Beglieri had to be strong early, kicking out all but one of the 10 shots he faced in the opening frame.
Steelheads head coach James Richmond said his team had to start strong and push throughout the game against a tough team like Windsor. He said getting more offensive zone possession in the second period helped put the Spitfires on their heels, which led to beating goaltender Matthias Onuska, who was strong in the Spitfires net.
When the Steelheads did finally find the back of the net, they took over. They scored five unanswered goals, including three in the second period and two goals in 40 seconds early in the third period.
While Windsor’s response of two quick goals was concerning enough to spark a timeout from Richmond, the team’s play throughout the game warranted some praise from the bench boss.
“I thought we played a strong game except for maybe five, six minutes there in the third period,” Richmond said.
Steelheads forward James Hardie, who was awarded the first star of the game for his three-point performance, was happy with the win.
“It feels amazing. They're a top team just like we are and we kind of showed that we're a bigger team,” Hardie said.
Steelheads keep Windsor’s top line off the board
A positive for the Steelheads at the defensive end of the ice might be that the Spitfires’ first line of Ryan Abraham, Matthew Maggio and Jacob Maillet were limited to just one assist and a collective -7 rating for the game.
Abraham and Maggio are both in the OHL’s top ten scoring leaders through 14 games, with 19 and 18 points respectively, while Maillet is close behind with 17.
The Spitfires did take control of the game for a portion of the third period, and the top line had a lot to do with it. Maggio in particular was a force, creating a number of high-danger chances for himself and his teammates both on the rush and off the cycle. Still, the Steelheads continued to shut him and the rest of the Spitfires down.
Holding off such a dynamic line has to be a positive takeaway for the Steelheads, who aided a strong performance from Beglieri by blocking shots and breaking up several high-danger plays. Three goals and 28 shots against is not symbolic of a perfect defensive game, but the Steelheads can be happy with the result against one of the top teams in the West.
Pucks N Paws game brings out some snarl
On a night that fans brought their four-legged friends, it seemed someone let the dogs out. The game featured a good dose of physical play, including 18 penalty minutes a side and a pair of fights.
The turning point in the game might have been the game’s first fight, between Isaac Enright and Liam Greentree.
The fight may not have impacted momentum directly, but the game did turn in Mississauga’s favour for most of the rest of the second period. The Steelheads’ second goal, off the stick of Brice Cooke, came a few minutes later.
Richmond said he was not sure what exactly happened to spark the fight, but it showed that the team is tight-knit.
“When things like that happen, it pumps them up a little bit. And they showed it,” he added.
Hardie said the team is a bunch of brothers.
“We fight for each other till the end of the game,” he said. “We're always going to stick up for each other.”
Owen Beck contributes multiple ways
Owen Beck, the Steelheads’s second highest scorer, showed his offensive chops Saturday evening. Beck scored twice, showcasing both his game sense and shooting ability as he turned strong shifts into needed tallies on the scoreboard.
Beck also contributed away from offence, including taking on Daniil Sobolev in the game’s second fight, which came a short time after the Spitfires cut the Steelheads lead to 5-3.
The fight started with Beck reacting to what Richmond called “maybe a dirty hit” by Sobolev on Kai Schwindt. After a quick tumble to the ice, a 10-minute misconduct and a five-minute fighting penalty meant Beck was supposed to be penalized for most of the rest of the game. The bigger concern for the Steelheads and their fans, however, might be that the Canadiens prospect left for the dressing room and did not return.
Richmond said the fight once again showed how tight the group is, as Beck jumped in to help a teammate.
“That's tough, losing one of your top players, if not the top player,” Richmond added. “But that just goes to show how he is. That's why he's an NHL-signed player.”
Hardie added that Beck played “really well tonight.”
“The kid does it all,” he said. “He scores, he makes plays, he fights… he does it all.”
Steelheads third line looks solid
One other noteworthy element of the game was the play of the Steelheads’ line of Brice Cooke, Luke Misa and Mason Zebeski.
Though they only combined for two points, the third line had a number of strong shifts. Cooke’s second period tally came on the heels of a strong offensive zone shift, with Zebeski cutting off a Spitfires breakout attempt and firing a pass to a wide-open Cooke in the slot, who did the rest.
While Cooke brings a mix of physical play and scoring, Zebeski is noticeable as a tenacious forechecker who is unafraid to take on anyone. In contrast, but also compliment, Misa brings the speed and style, winding up plays from the neutral zone unlike almost anyone else. His speed and the line’s energy were apparent Saturday night, the only question now is whether it will start translating into more scoring.
The Steelheads head North to take on the Sudbury Wolves Saturday afternoon on the heels of back-to-back wins and a 9-3-1-0 record. A win could move the Steelheads into second place in the league after 14 games of 68.