The Mississauga Steelheads may have looked to the future at this year’s OHL trade deadline earlier this month, but the young club isn’t ready to be counted out just yet.
Thomas Harley scored at 2:08 of overtime to help the Steelheads run their win streak to four games with a 4-3 decision over the Barrie Colts, Jan. 25, at the Paramount Fine Foods Centre. A step back may have been in order for Mississauga after dealing top NHL prospects Owen Tippett and Ryan McLeod to the Saginaw Spirit ahead of the Jan. 10 deadline, but after an initial lull the young team is finding its game.
“You got a group in that everybody counts out – they’re not going to do anything this year – and they’ve really bought in,” Steelheads general manager and head coach James Richmond said after the win over Barrie. “They’re paying attention to the structure that we want them to play with and the detailed pieces that we want them to deal with, and they’re having fun in there together. It’s been good. It’s been a good group to work with in practice, teaching new guys some new stuff, so they’re really buying in. . . They look good right now.”
Leading the way for the Steelheads (22-19-4-1) has been Harley, who had a pair of assists to go along with his overtime winner.
It’s been quite the week for the defenceman, who found out he moved up to ninth overall in the NHL Central Scouting’s mid-term rankings among North American skaters and then went on to record an assist for Team Cherry in the CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game on Jan. 23 in Red Deer, Alta. Harley buried the Colts (19-24-2-0) when he chipped the puck off the boards in his own to get by fellow top NHL draft prospect Ryan Suzuki and then raced down the ice, before ripping a low shot past the left pad of goaltender Jet Greaves.
“He’s got great feet, he can really skate,” Richmond said of his star blue liner. “He chipped it by Suzuki and I think the guy (Jacob Tortora) at the back end there underestimated his speed coming up and he made a great shot on net. It was a nice goal.”
It was a tough ending for the Colts, who battled back twice in the contest to force overtime.
Cole Schwindt and Liam Ham, on the power play, gave the home team a 2-0 after opening 20 minutes, before Aidan Brown cut into the lead in the middle period and Nathan Allensen’s power-play goal just 1:10 into the final period tied things up.
Cole Carter put Mississauga back on top at 12:09, but Barrie drew even once again when Tortora buried a rebound past rookie goalie Joe Ranger at 16:09 with his team on the power play.
It was the second-straight one-goal loss for a Colts team trying to get back into the playoff picture in the Eastern Conference.
“At least we got a point tonight, but you want to win those for sure,” said Barrie head coach Dale Hawerchuk, whose club sits seven points behind North Bay for the eighth and final playoff spot in the conference. “Sometimes with a young group it’s confidence, right? They need this kind of mileage and I see some guys and they’re a little bit hesitant, and you don’t get results that way. You got to be full throttle all the time. That’s how they can learn from it.”
The win moved the Steelheads into fifth place in the conference.
“Right now we’re in a playoff run every game,” Richmond said. “That’s what we talk about, know your purpose. We try not to look behind us (in the standings), we try to look ahead of us. Who can we chase down. I think if you have that chase down mentality as opposed to who is coming up behind you it works in a more positive way.”
The Steelheads are right back at it on Jan. 26, when they travel to Hamilton to face the Bulldogs at 4 p.m. They complete a busy three-in-three weekend on Jan. 27 when they host the Sudbury Wolves at 2 p.m.
Photo: Thomas Harley scored the overtime winner as the Mississauga Steelheads defeated the Barrie Colts, 4-3, to nail down their fourth straight win in OHL action, Jan. 25, at the Paramount Fine Foods Centre. Terry Wilson/OHL Images.