What has been a whirlwind of a season for the Mississauga Steelheads has finally come to an end. With a 4-1 defeat on home ice on Wednesday night, the Steelheads were eliminated from the OHL playoffs in a four game sweep to the Sudbury Wolves.
The Wolves took the game early on in the first period with a pair of goals delivered by Blake Murray as well as Carson Macauley. Mississauga was able to strike once in the second period of play when Nick Isaacson got one passed Ukko-Pekka Luukonen but it was not enough to initiate a comeback.
Although the Steelheads exit the OHL postseason without a win, do not be so fast to write off what was an encouraging regular season. Mississauga was one of the more impressive teams this season. Management did a fantastic job building for the future while simultaneously helping them succeed and make the playoffs.
Towards the OHL trade deadline, the Steelheads were not looking as hot as they were expected to be. This resulted in management deciding to build for the future and trade star players Ryan McLeod and Owen Tippett. By doing this, many thought that any chance of making the playoffs was over.
Management gathered many picks for future drafts while also adding some solid talent, most notably Aidan Prueter. Prueter is a young centre who is not draft eligible until the 2020 NHL Entry Draft. Management did a great job succeeding with the team they had.
They found strong line combinations and pairings that worked. With the additions of certain star players, some of the younger players like Keean Washkurak and Cole Schwindt were able to make more of an impact going forward. Prueter was also given a more expanded role and looked strong in his new role. He will surely be given an even larger role next season and will likely see his scoring increase as a result of his expanded role and past experience.
Mississauga was able to beat out top teams including the London Knights and Ottawa 67’s this year and still make the playoffs despite trading star players. This proved to the league that the team could still succeed without some of their star players apart of the run. If you watched the Steelheads play a lot this season, it became clear that despite trading away some of their top players, they are still fairly close to becoming a serious contender once again.
Although they got swept in the opening round of the OHL playoffs, Mississauga certainly put up a strong fight en route to the finish. The superb goaltending of Ukko-Pekka Lukkonen was a significant reason why the team was not able to make it through to the second round. They put up more shots then Sudbury in three out of the four games they played.
Only in the first game did the Wolves put up more shots, but only doing so by one more. Lukkonen was rather stellar and was arguably the biggest reason why the Sudbury Wolves were able to sweep the Mississauga Steelheads in four games played. High end scoring from players like Quentin Byfield also contributed to the series sweep as well.
The Steelheads were never expected to make it to the playoffs, never mind just put up a fight the way they did against the Wolves. Sudbury was always expected to have the advantage over Mississauga as they came out firing en route to the victory. The shear fact that the Steelheads were not blown out in every single game, however, is something that the team can go home being satisfied with.
Obviously, it was not the result that Mississauga wanted, but they have plenty of pieces to build on for the foreseeable future ahead and a solid group of players in their system that only look to get better as well. It will not be long before the Steelheads get back on their path to their winning ways.