The Mississauga Steelheads have new life in the Rogers OHL Championship Series, powering past the visiting Erie Otters with a big third period to take a 4-3 win in Game 3.
New Jersey Devils prospect Michael McLeod (10) tipped home the winning goal off a Vili Saarijarvi point wrister with 5:08 remaining after fellow Devils draft pick Nathan Bastian (7) tied the score at 9:03.
After going 43-0-0-0 when leading after two periods during the regular season, the Otters suffered their third loss of these playoffs when entering the third with a lead. Erie also sees a five game winning streak come to an end, being outshot 31-26 in the process.
“Another one goal game,” said Steelheads coach James Richmond following the win that came before 3,514 at the Hershey Centre. “Both teams are playing their hearts out. That’s what the OHL is about, it’s the best development league in the world and I think the fans are getting their money’s worth right now. Both teams are playing really well, the stars are playing like stars and the goalies are making good saves. It’s a lot of fun to be involved in.”
The Steelheads played desperate hockey in the first period and came away with a 1-0 lead after 20 minutes as Ryan McLeod (5) extended his point streak to seven games with a goal 6:17 into action.
The 2018 NHL Draft prospect blew past an Otters defender before beating Erie goaltender Troy Timpano in alone with a backhand deke to put the Trout up early.
Trent Fox (6) would tack on another goal 2:23 into the second frame, striking against his former team as Brendan Harrogate did laymen’s work below the goal line to centre for the veteran forward who chipped a puck up over the shoulder of Timpano to put Mississauga up 2-0.
The Otters came roaring back though, scoring three times in the final 12 minutes of the second as Alex DeBrincat (12), Dylan Strome (13) and Anthony Cirelli (14) all put pucks past Matthew Mancina to give Erie a 3-2 lead headed to the second intermission.
After expressing some frustration in the dressing room at the break, the Trout came out inspired in the third and put pucks on net, getting a few friendly bounces along the way to wrestle back control of the game.
Bastian tied the score midway through the third by banking a shot off the back of Timpano’s leg and into the net from below the goal line as Owen Tippett and Shaw Boomhower drew assists.
Michael McLeod’s power play winner came on what started out as a low wrist shot toward the Erie goal that got deflected enroute, finding a way past Timpano’s outstretched pad.
The Steelheads would hang on for a much needed victory to set up Game 4 at home on Wednesday night with the Otters holding a 2-1 edge in the best of seven series.
— OntarioHockeyLeague (@OHLHockey) May 9, 2017
“They played more desperate in the third,” said Erie captain Dylan Strome after the loss. “I think we played desperate in the second when we were down two and needed to get back in it.
“I’m pretty sure the exact same thing happened in Game 3 of the Owen Sound series where we were down 2-0 then got up 3-2 and lost in the third,” he added. “We’ve got to find a way to hold onto leads, it’s playoff hockey. They deserved to win tonight.”
Strome finished the night with a goal and an assist in the loss, tying Brad Boyes’ franchise playoff points record with 81 over his 67 career postseason contests.
On the Mississauga side, Richmond reflected on the second intermission turnaround post-game, saying his players needed to regroup.
“We got down 3-2 and some of the guys were a little annoyed in the dressing room and I just tried to settle them down and refocus,” he said. “We got back out there for the third period to try and win that.
“We just need to have confidence in each other. We didn’t fluke our way here because of one player, we got here because our whole team is playing well and I think we just have to stay focused on our strengths and the things that we do well.”
Game 4 takes place on Wednesday night back in Mississauga.