Thanks to an impressive effort from their top offensive stars, the Mississauga Steelheads have managed to take home-ice advantage away from the Barrie Colts in their Eastern Conference first-round playoff matchup.
Owen Tippett and Trent Fox both scored twice with Michael McLeod and younger brother Ryan each adding a goal and an assist to lead the Steelheads to a 6-2 win over the Colts in game one of their best-of-seven series, March 22, at the Barrie Molson Centre.
With the score tied 2-2 and less than a minute remaining in the second period, Mississauga struck twice in 30 seconds to take control of the contest. Tippett scored what proved to be the game winner when he pounced on a give-away by defenceman T.J. Fergus in front of the Barrie net and walked around Colts goaltender Leo Lazarev. Then, Michael McLeod was hauled down at centre ice with less than two seconds left in the second and the New Jersey Devils prospect buried the ensuing penalty shot.
Fox, with his second on the power play, and Tippett scored in the third period to stun the Central Division champion Colts.
“Obviously we wanted to follow our game plan and we wanted to capitalize on the chances we got,” said Tippett, a first-round pick of the Florida Panthers in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft. “We used our speed and were able to get pucks through to the net. We were able to have a whole lot of chances and we were able to make them count.”
Aaron Luchuk and Lucas Chiodo, on the power play, scored for the Colts, who will now try to even the series on March 26 back at the Barrie Molson Centre.
“We knew coming into it that they were going to battle hard,” said veteran forward Zach Magwood outside a quiet Barrie dressing room. “We’ve just got to match that ourselves, if not do better than what they bring. We’re going to regroup here the next couple of days and come back hard.”
Needing their best players to be their best players, the likes of Tippett, Fox, the McLeod brothers and Vegas Knights prospect Nicholas Hague were certainly that on this night. The group, explains Tippett, has all the motivation they need after losing to the Erie Otters in last year’s OHL finals.
“Last year was a little sour,” he said. “The guys that are returning are a little more hungry this year. We’re all older guys now and we want to finish off what we started last year.”
Jacob Ingham stopped 32 shots to record the win in goal for Mississauga. Lazarev turned away 32 of 38 shots for Barrie.
The puck drops for game two at 7:30 p.m. on March 26, before the series heads to the Hershey Centre in Mississauga the following night.
Photo: Nicholas Hague (with puck) and the Mississauga Steelheads stole home ice advantage from the Barrie Colts in game one of their Eastern Conference first-round series. Game two is set for March 26 back in Barrie. Miranda Zilkowsky photo.