By: Mitchell Fox
The Mississauga Steelheads eighth game of the season featured a matchup with the Hamilton Bulldogs, who swept them in the second round of last year’s OHL playoffs. The 8-2 blowout victory for the Steelheads started with a bang (almost literally, the first big play was a boards-jolting hit by Kasper Larsen) and rarely lost steam. When there were no goals, there was great back-and-forth action as well as some antics; the penalties added up quickly.
Here are some takeaways from the Steelheads’ seventh victory of the season.
Revenge couldn’t come sooner for Mississauga
The Steelheads should be glad to have such a massive victory over the Bulldogs, who made fairly easy work of the Steelheads in the second round of the playoffs last year before going on to win the OHL championship.
The carry-over from that series was evident off the bat, as alongside a few bone-crunching hits from either side, Hamilton found themselves in penalty trouble early. The Steelheads took advantage, with Luca Del Bel Belluz opening the scoring on the powerplay.
Steelheads head coach and general manager James Richmond said the team came ready to play.
“They beat us 4 straight. So we weren’t going to sit back and let that happen again,” he said.
Alternate captain Owen Beck added the team was “fairly pissed off” about last year’s result.
“There are twelve guys in the room that experienced that game last year. And we definitely carried that with us,” Beck said. “The other guys jumped on board and were ready to go tonight, and we got a big win.”
Steelheads stay cool as tempers flare
Another key aspect of the game, likely drawing from the teams’ past, was the number of penalties called. The Bulldogs in particular ended up with 21 penalty minutes, as well as two 10-minute misconducts. In total three Bulldogs players were sent to the locker room before the game was over.
“There's a lot of guys that don't like each other out there. And you know, I think that showed tonight,” Beck said. “But we got the win and that's what matters.”
The Steelheads, for their part, managed to stay fairly level-headed. The team did take four penalties and Kasper Larsen did get called for roughing late in the third period, but it should be a good sign for the Steelheads that they managed to avoid more time in the penalty box in a game that featured quite a lot of hitting, scrums after whistles and conversations with referees.
As a result, the Steelheads were able to walk away with four powerplay goals (the Bulldogs also had one).
A big night for Kai Schwindt
Apparently Kai Schwindt decided if he was going to hit the twine for the first time this season, he would need to do it in style. The Florida Panthers’ prospect scored a hat trick Friday night, contributing the winning goal and the next two before the Steelheads really took control of the scoreboard.
Schwindt said he was itching to finish off the hat trick when he got time on the powerplay in the third period.
“It’s definitely in the back of your head,” he admitted.
Schwindt is a regular feature on Mississauga’s second or third line as a power forward, but his ability to find space and release a quick shot were apparent, making him a threat across the lineup and at all strengths.
“I feel like I can be trusted in any position,” Schwindt said. “This team is full of amazing players, so it's pretty easy to play with all them.”
He also had two assists in the game and earned the first star of the game for his efforts.
Richmond said Schwindt has been “putting the work in” in practices and pre-game skates and complimented his compete level, which he compared to Kai’s brother and former Steelhead Cole Schwindt, now in the Calgary Flames’ prospect system.
“He's an NHL-signed player. So he's gonna have nights like this,” Richmond added.
Beck fills the scoresheet too
One of the team’s bonafide leaders, Owen Beck, was a force at all strengths for the Steelheads. The Montreal Canadiens prospect had a powerplay goal in the third period and five assists, one on each of Mississauga’s first five goals of the game.
Beck is especially noticeable in that his contributions come in all three zones. Alongside his playmaking ability, he continues to bring his hockey sense, quick feet and strong hands to the powerplay and penalty kill as well as at five-on-five.
“He’s obviously a tremendous player,” Schwindt said of Beck. “It’s a treat playing with him for sure.”
Beck and Schwindt are another example of Richmond’s liking for finding pairs of forwards that work well together, like he has found with James Hardie and Luca Del Bel Belluz.
“They're both NHL-signed picks. They're both very determined to be NHL players. So they're pushing each other,” Richmond said of Beck and Schwindt. “Whoever gets to play with them is pretty lucky.”
The strength of the Schwindt-Beck connection was obvious Friday, as the two contributed 11 points between them.
“Just having that time together, it really builds chemistry,” Beck said. “It worked well for us tonight. And I think we're gonna keep looking to do that down the road.”
Kasper Larsen makes his return to the OHL
A key addition to the Steelheads’ lineup for the game Friday came in Kasper Larsen. The Danish defenceman was a major factor on the blue line for Mississauga last year, but the expectation was that he would be unavailable this season due to signing a professional contract. This, however, did not come to fruition for Larsen.
With Larsen’s return to Mississauga, which Richmond said was unexpected, the Steelheads had to place Valdemar Hull on waivers in order to meet the league’s rule of team’s only being allowed two import players.
“We didn’t get rid of [Hull],” Richmond said. “He’s a great kid. He’s going to be a fantastic player in this league.”
As for Larsen, the six-foot-six defenceman used his large frame, which Richmond said is now leaner and stronger, often throughout the game, throwing hits and controlling the puck well in all three zones. Larsen also played on both the penalty kill and powerplay and had two assists.
“He is a great defender and he's great transitioner of the puck,” Richmond said. “He did all of those things tonight.”
The Steelheads next game comes tomorrow night against the Barrie Colts, who they beat in the first round of the playoffs in 2022. The game will be the first in a four-game road trip before returning to Paramount Fine Foods Centre to play the Windsor Spitfires on Nov. 5.