By: Mitchell Fox | Jan. 22, 2023
A goaltending performance for the ages and a scrappy game were the highlights Sunday for the Mississauga Steelheads, who came away with a 5-4 victory against the Niagara IceDogs.
The two teams played for the fifth time this season, with the Steelheads moving to 4-1 in the season series with the victory. The IceDogs find themselves with their fourth loss in five days and on a 10-game losing streak, while the Steelheads grabbed their second three-game win streak of the new year.
Here are some takeaways from a fun-filled frenzy at Paramount Fine Foods Centre.
Steelheads break the shot counter, still have to battle out a win
The Steelheads outshot the IceDogs 57-17 on Sunday, an impressive total matched by a lights-out performance by Niagara goaltender Josh Rosenzweig.
Despite the onslaught of shots, highlighted by 21 shots in the second period, and a number of close scoring chances, the Steelheads could only find the back of the net one more time than their opponent. Though that was enough for their third win in a row for the weekend (Thursday to Sunday), the result was not one head coach James Richmond was too impressed with.
“I enjoyed that we got six out of six but I didn't like our desperation. I didn't like our urgency,” Richmond said. “We were trying to be too pretty. So we have to fix that obviously.”
The second period saw Mississauga’s best performance, taking control and making it seem the score could balloon well passed the 4-2 on the board after 40 minutes. The biggest reason it did not was Rosenzweig, who kept his team in the game despite their struggles with puck possession and high-danger opportunities. They would go nearly 13 minutes without a shot, before breaking that rut with a goal on the powerplay.
Richmond said he thought Rosenzweig “stood on his head,” but he wanted more out of his team.
“He made some incredible saves,” he said. “But we’ve got to get more of a killer instinct to put teams away.”
As for their own end of the ice, the Steelheads coach was content with the team’s defensive effort, though he said they cannot be giving up four goals on 17 shots.
“I think we only gave up 17 shots, so we're okay there,” Richmond said.
Richmond and co. want more from powerplay
One of the biggest concerns for the Steelheads on Sunday was a lack of execution on the powerplay. They spent a lot of time on the powerplay, as the IceDogs took 10 penalties in the game, including three in 31 seconds in the second period, resulting in a long five-on-three. In the third period, a flurry of penalties in the last ten minutes was capped by a seven-minute penalty to David Jesus (two minutes for high-sticking and five minutes and a game misconduct for a hit to the head on Lucas Karmiris).
Though Mississauga did convert twice on the powerplay, including Luke Misa’s eventual game-winning goal, Richmond said his team needed to be better on the powerplay, which will take putting some ideas in the heads of their many young players.
“We had great looks on the powerplay, but you gotta be more urgent to score,” he surmised.
The IceDogs scored shorthanded with about 20 seconds left in the game, which Richmond attributed to a lack of focus.
Loose pucks the key against a tough goaltender
The Steelheads found the back of the net twice in the first period thanks to loose pucks in front of Rosenzweig. Though their first opportunities – a two-on-one in one case, a slot shot in the other – did not work out, the Steelheads’ tenacity and ability to find a loose puck proved enough to find the scoreboard. They would add another of that kind in the second, with James Hardie finding a puck underneath Rosenzweig that the IceDogs goaltender could not find.
The takeaway for the Steelheads might be that they are able to find the net eventually when they throw a lot of pucks at the net, but Richmond would likely prefer his team take advantage of more dangerous opportunities, as 57-shots may not always be an option.
At the other end of the ice, the Steelheads struggled early with giving up chances in the high slot due to a hyena-like forecheck from the IceDogs, who seemed always to have a player ready to pick up any puck in the middle of the zone. This would disappear as the Steelheads took control of the game.
James Hardie maintains impressive streak
With a goal early in the second period, James Hardie got his ninth point in his last three games, adding to a run of points in ten straight games. The goal may not have been the prettiest, but like all of the goals in the game, it would prove important, kicking off a second period all Steelheads fans had to have enjoyed.
The veteran forward has been impressive to start off 2023, hitting the Steelheads’ franchise records in goals and points and not looking back from there. He is now only 15 points short of Riley Brace’s Mississauga record of 234 points during his time split between the Steelheads and Mississauga St. Michael’s Majors, a total he should have no trouble hitting in a long season left to finish.
Porter Martone scores his first as a Steelhead
One of the players the Steelheads acquired at the trade deadline that has attracted the most attention is 16-year-old forward Porter Martone.
The former Sarnia Sting has shown signs of skill, speed and strength in his first seven games with Mississauga, posting four points. On Sunday, a second-period tally would finally put him in the goal column in the blue and white. When a Kasper Larsen slap shot on the powerplay hit the end boards behind the IceDogs’ net and bounced right to Martone, he made no mistake, unloading a quick shot to beat Rosenzweig. A slight flub meant it was not the prettiest goal, but Martone will surely take it.
Richmond was appreciative, but also honest, about his young prospect. He called Martone a “high-end talent” but said there is some work for him to do, emphasized by a couple of plays where he was found out of position on Sunday.
“It's just it's a process now for him to develop and learn that he has to play away from the puck,” Richmond said. “But he's a high-end talent. So it's gonna be fun watching him grow.”
Martone also had a penalty shot in the third period, which was stopped by Rosenzweig.
Martone and the rest of the Steelheads will seek a rare four-game win streak when the Flint Firebirds come to town on Jan. 27.