The effort was there, but in the end a young Mississauga Steelheads club proved to be no match for the Sudbury Wolves.
The favoured Wolves made quick work of the OHL Eastern Conference first-round battle, sweeping away the best-of-seven series with a 4-1 win over the Steelheads, Mar. 27, at the Paramount Fine Foods Centre.
It was a tough way to end the season for Mississauga, which held its own after turning to the future at the OHL trade deadline in January by trading away NHL prospects Owen Tippett and Ryan McLeod.
“It’s tough to lose four straight like that,” Steelheads general manager and head coach James Richmond said after the loss. “I thought we played pretty well in spurts, but it was too many spurts. Tonight the penalties got us in trouble a little bit, but I just said I’m proud of them. I’m happy that I got to coach them.
“There’s some good hockey players in that room and good character in that room and they’ll use it to build on for next year.”
Peter Stratis had a goal and assist to lead the way for the Wolves, who will have some time off before the start of their Eastern Conference semi-final series late next week against a yet to be determined opponent.
Blake Murray, Macauley Carson and Drake Pilon also scored for Sudbury, which finished fourth in the conference, 20 points ahead of the fifth-place Steelheads. Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen turned aside 32 shots to record the win in goal.
Nick Isaacson had the lone goal, while Jacob Ingham made 28 saves in net for Mississauga.
Determined to end the series, the Wolves came out strong in the opening period, getting goals from Murray and Carson, on the power play, while outshooting Mississauga, 17-11.
Pilon added to the lead early in the second, before Isaacson finally broke through for the Steelheads midway through the period. Ryan Barbosa’s shot from the point was stopped, but Isaacson pounced on the loose puck in front to cut the lead to two.
Stratis sealed the win and the series with an empty-net goal with just 1:01 remaining.
“They built momentum off possession when they had the power play,” Richmond said of the Wolves. “It just seemed like every time we came out of a (penalty kill), we had a hard time gaining the momentum back. We had push back a few times, which is pretty good for such a young team, so the future is bright for us I guess you can say.
“They’re a big heavy team and they got that big kid in net and it was tough.”
The loss brought an end to the junior careers of overagers Cole Carter, Alan Lyszczarczyk and Barbosa, but the Steelheads will have 20 eligible players who can return next season.
Richmond hopes his team uses this experience to help them take a step forward next season.
“The pain hurts,” he said of being eliminated. “Losing hurts. They’re going to feel it for a while and they got to remember that next year when they come into the season and use that so they can be better players for the season and then use this experience so they can be better next year in the playoffs.”
photo: The OHL playoff run for Nick Isaacson and the Mississauga Steelheads came to a quick end with a 4-1 loss to the Sudbury Wolves, Mar. 27, at the Paramount Fine Foods Centre. The favoured Wolves swept the best-of-seven Eastern Conference first-round series, 4-0. Terry Wilson/OHL Images