On Wednesday night, the Mississauga Steelheads came into the Paramount Fine Foods Centre with one purpose, to even up their best-of-seven series against the North Bay Battalion. After losing 5-2 on Tuesday night, there was a lot to be desired from the blue and white.
However, this young group came ready to play in the first period. They outshot the Battalion 8-4 in the opening frame and killed off a double minor in the midst of it. There will be an extended conversation on the performance special team units below, but let’s start with some individual performances.
Here are three takeaways from the Steelhead’s victory, starting with a player that broke through on the scoresheet.
Angus MacDonell Scores Twice
The second-year centre has elevated his offensive performance since being traded from the Sarnia Sting. His 0.77 points per game have improved from his previous 0.51 clip, and his goals per game are up to 0.54 from his previous 0.36 clip.
Coming into game 4, MacDonell had 1 goal in 3 games and his line had been outscored 1-5 at 5v5. He made notable adjustments at both ends of the ice to help improve his performance. There was more willingness to be a puck transporter and create more plays off the rush.
Looking at his first goal, the team was in a shorthanded situation and he intercepted the puck in the neutral zone. Despite having two Battalion skaters chasing him, which included Ty Nelson and Matvey Petrov, he was able to accelerate and protect the puck. This was the game-opening goal, and it came with 6:04 remaining in the second period.
He finished with 2 goals on 4 shots, and was trusted to be on the ice when North Bay was challenging for a goal in the final minutes of the third period. The Toronto native improves his totals to 3 goals in 4 games, and was named OHL Playoffs Performer of the Night.
Dom DiVincentiis vs Ryerson Leenders
After the OHL Trade Deadline ended, there was an emphasis on developing the younger talent in Mississauga. That philosophy has continued into the playoffs, where Steelheads Head Coach James Richmond has opted to use Leenders, a 16-year-old, over the older option in Alessio Beglieri.
Despite some shortcomings in two out of the three games, Leenders rose to the occasion in game 4. He stopped 22 of 23 shots, didn’t face too many high-danger scoring chances, but made timely saves in the third period. His goaltender counterpart on the other end had a different story.
DiVincentiis stopped 28 of 31 shots, and looked unbeatable through the first 36 minutes of the game. Starting in the first period, Luke Misa fired a shot from long range and it narrowly missed after being deflected, before it was cleared by a Battalion blueliner.
Then in the second period, Zander Veccia intercepted a loose puck and spotted Misa for the cross-crease opportunity. However, the Battalion netminder had the answer again, fully extended his body, and made the highlight-reel save with the blocker stop. DiVincentiis has the ability to be a game-changer, and it’s because of moments such as that. On the second goal by MacDonell, the rebound given up was not ideal for him, but Paul Christopoulos was unable to clear the front of the net to help out his goaltender.
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Steelheads Continue Special Teams Advantage
Starting with the power play, it’s been a tale of two stories between these teams. Through the first three games, the Steelheads were scoring at 23.5% with the man advantage, compared to the Battalion scoring on 7.7% of their opportunities. In the second period, North Bay was able to break through on a goal from Anthony Romani, but there is still a lot to be desired.
As mentioned in the opening of this article, Adam Zidlicky took a double minor for high sticking in the first period, which sent the Battalion to the power play. Credit is deserved for the Steelheads penalty killers, who never allowed them to set up their formation. However, for a team that has multiple players that excel in transition, they were unable to generate controlled zone entries. There was a lot of puck chasing and a lack of creativity that was not seen in the regular season by the club. They missed a huge opportunity to take hold of the game.
Looking at the penalty kill, both teams had solid outings in this game. North Bay only took one penalty, so credit to them for playing a clean game for the most part. There was one incident with Matvey Petrov, where he cross-checked Porter Malone up high, but there was no penalty assessed on the play.
Nonetheless, the Battalion were able to kill off the solo power play, and didn’t give up many high-danger chances. On the other side, the Steelheads allowed one power play goal on four opportunities, and have been among the best teams in this regard. They sit at 88.2% when on the penalty kill, and will need to continue the stellar efforts to close out this series.
Heading back to North Bay, the series will continue on Friday night at the North Bay Memorial Gardens at 7:00 PM.
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