The Erie Otters are taking a 2-0 lead in the Rogers OHL Championship Series into Mississauga on Monday night after Chicago Blackhawks prospect Alex DeBrincat (10, 11) scored twice in a narrow 3-2 win over the visiting Mississauga Steelheads in Game 2.
After going four games without a goal, the OHL’s Most Outstanding Player broke out with a pair as his empty net marker stood as the game winner after the Steelheads made a late third period push to draw within a goal.
Though two high-powered offensive clubs went head-to-head once again, defence reigned supreme just as it did in Game 1 in a tight-checking, low-scoring affair.
“It’s not overly surprising,” said Otters head coach Kris Knoblauch after the win. “We had the second-best goals-against average during the regular season and Mississauga has been very good defensively here in the playoffs. When you get two goalies playing well and a commitment to defence the way our two teams have, this is the kind of hockey you get.”
The Otters overcame a slow start, registering just one shot in the opening 10 minutes of the game.
Mississauga opened the scoring on a goal from sophomore forward Ryan McLeod (4) who got his stick on a low Spencer Watson shot toward the goal, redirecting the puck through the legs of Erie goaltender Troy Timpano at 16:14.
DeBrincat struck just over two minutes later, harvesting the fruits of Anthony Cirelli’s labour as the Tampa Bay Lightning prospect took a Dylan Strome feed to rush down the wing and find an oncoming DeBrincat down the middle for a tap-in with 1:15 left in the first.
Erie would outshoot Mississauga 13-9 in a scoreless second period as the game entered the third frame knotted at one.
Steelheads goaltender Matthew Mancina continued his strong play, making a number of big saves to keep the score tied as Mississauga was outshot 34-24 in the game.
Carolina Hurricanes prospect Warren Foegele (10) got the break the Otters were looking for with 1:57 left in the third period after Kyle Pettit blocked a point shot and Cirelli sent the puck out to centre where a waiting Foegele was off to the races. The left-handed shooting Foegele dropped his left shoulder before slipping a low release through the legs of Mancina as the 6,170 at Erie Insurance Arena erupted.
DeBrincat stripped a Steelhead off the forecheck 50 seconds later, finding the empty net in what would prove to be a game changer as the Otters led 3-1.
— OntarioHockeyLeague (@OHLHockey) May 7, 2017
Mississauga’s Shaw Boomhower (1) scored to bring the Trout back within one with 29 seconds left in the third, but that’d be as close as they’d come as the Otters hung on until the final buzzer to take a 2-0 series lead headed to Mississauga for Game 3 on Monday.
“I thought our best period was our third period,” Knoblauch noted after the win. “I didn’t know if we’d ever get the go-ahead goal but we persevered and Foegele made a great play to use his speed and get the breakaway.
“Fortunately we were able to get Alex’s second goal into the empty net to get the two-goal lead.”
Down but not out, James Richmond’s Steelheads turn their attention to Game 3.
“It was a game of ebbs and flows,” said the Mississauga coach. “I think the power play opportunities were 4-to-1 so that might have hurt us a little bit. It was a game of bounces today but we’re not going to quit. We’re getting back on the bus to focus on tomorrow’s game.”
DeBrincat continues to lead the OHL Playoffs in scoring with 33 points (11-22–33) over 19 games while Cirelli and Mississauga’s Ryan McLeod each stretched their current point streaks to six games with assists.
The Otters enter Monday’s action on a five game winning streak.
The 2011 Owen Sound Attack were the last club to overcome a 2-0 deficit and come back to win an OHL Championship, doing so against the Mississauga St. Michael’s Majors.