The Barrie Colts punched their ticket into the second round of the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) playoffs with an 8-2 victory over the Mississauga Steelheads, April 1, at the Hershey Centre.
Andrei Svechnikov scored three times and finished with five points, while Zachary Magwood and Dmitry Sokolov each scored twice as the Colts scored eight unanswered goals, including five in third period, to clinch the best-of-seven Eastern Conference quarter-final series four games to two. Barrie will now move on to face the Kingston Frontenacs in a conference semifinal matchup. A schedule for the best-of-seven series has yet to be announced, but it’s expected to start April 5 at Barrie.
Mississauga had won four of six games between their Central Division rivals in the regular season, including the last three meetings and it looked like the Steelheads would continue that success in the playoffs when they opened the series with a convincing 6-2 win at Barrie. Spurred by the outstanding play of Leo Lazarev in goal and the return of Svechnikov from a four-game suspension, the Colts fought back from 2-1 series deficit with three straight wins to eliminate the Steelheads.
“We talked about it,” Colts head coach Dale Hawerchuk said of wanting to get stronger each game. “As the series went along we just wanted to keep getting better and better and I thought we did. Getting Svechnikov back the last couple of games gave us a little infusion there. Of course Leo had a really good series.”
Acquired from the Ottawa 67’s before the start of the season, the overage goaltender put aside a tough opening loss and rebounded with his five best performances of the season with his team’s season on the line. Lazarev stopped 233 of the 252 shots he faced in the series.
“He’s been one of our (most valuable players),” Hawerchuk said. “He’s come in this year and he gives us energy. Your team takes the identity of your goaltender sometimes. He’s that kind of character and brings out character in the rest of them.”
Down 2-0 early in the second period and with Mississauga on the power play, Lazarev came up with a diving stop to rob Mathieu Foget on the door step and keep his team in the game. Barrie responded less than two minutes later when Aaron Luchuk and Magwood scored just seven seconds apart to tie the contest. Magwood scored what proved to the winner a little more than two minutes later. Svechnikov doubled the lead at 3:20 of the third period and after a slew of Barrie penalties, added a shorthanded back-breaker that made it 5-2.
All year the Steelheads power play, which ranked second overall in the OHL and led by top NHL prospects Michael McLeod, Owen Tippett and Nicholas Hague, had wreaked havoc for the Colts. After giving up two power-play goals in the series-opening loss, Barrie’s penalty kill held Mississauga to just a single goal on 18 chances over the last five games.
“We knew we were going to have to shut that down to be successful,” Hawerchuk said. “They’ve got so many guys that can make plays. I thought the four-man (penalty-killing) units we had there and even the five-on-threes that we killed, the guys were in sync. They were on the same page and, of course, Leo makes that save when you make a mistake that helps bail you out.”
After getting offensive production from just their top line early in the series, the Colts got production throughout the lineup to help wrap up the series. The line of Ryan Suzuki, Lucas Chiodo and Magwood stepped up in a big way, as the trio combined for five goals and 12 points over the last three wins.
The trio of Jason Willms between Jaden Peca and Ben Hawerchuk forced turnovers and helped wear down Mississauga’s top two lines with their persistent forecheck and gritty play.
“We got secondary scoring and we had lines playing against the McLeod’s and Tippett’s that sometimes you need to shut them down,” the Colts head coach said. “I thought we had line combinations that were cohesive to that and then we had a few different line combinations because of injuries or suspensions. They all came through.”
Michael McLeod, with his sixth in the series, and Cole Carter scored for the Steelheads in the loss.
Photo: Leo Lazarev and the Barrie Colts are moving on in the OHL playoffs after eliminating the Mississauga Steelheads. Lazrev is a big reason why the Colts are heading to the second round, kicking aside 233 shots in the last five games. Terry Wilson/OHL Images photo