The Mississauga Steelheads extended their winning streak to three games on Friday night, as they captured a 3-0 victory over the North Bay Battalion. Joe Ranger was terrific in his 17th game of the season, making 27 saves en route to the shutout. James Hardie scored twice in this outing, putting him up to 28 goals on the season, which ties him with Flint Firebirds left-winger Brennan Othmann for the second-place spot in the Ontario Hockey League’s (OHL) goal-scoring race.
As a team, the Steelheads scored once on their three power-play attempts. They currently are averaging 19.6% on the man advantage, which places them 12th in the league. However, their 5v5 play has been their main strength, meaning there’s still an improvement for a team that is first in the league standings with a 26-8-1 record.
In this piece, let’s take a look at three takeaways from Mississauga’s victory of the Battalion, from the players on the ice to the commentators calling the game.
The First Line Continues To Dominate
The dynamic duo of Hardie and Luca DelBelBelluz have provided an elite-level of offensive spark to this team. Taking a look at some statistics, DelBelBelluz has scored 20 goals in 38 games, which equates to 36.7% of the team’s goals scored this season. He ranks fifth out of all 2004-born Canadian Hockey League (CHL) prospects in this regard.
Hardie, who has gone undrafted in his past two eligible drafts, has improved his transition play and offensive game. He can score at all areas of the offensive zone, whether it’s creating a screen and deflecting the puck in front of the net, or carrying the puck on a three-on-two rush, shooting a wrist shot off the rush. The 20-year-old had 49 points in 38 games this season, which equals a career-high points-per-game (PPG) of 1.29.
In terms of the third member of this line, it often rotates, but Ty Collins has been the prominent member throughout the majority of the season. The undrafted 19-year-old is still playing his best season as an OHL player, scoring 23 points across 34 games. Although Jake Uberti is likely to slot into his role once back from his injury, Collins’ main strengths are winning puck battles along the boards and creating room for Hardie and DelBelBelluz.
Joe Ranger Excelling As Backup
Since playing his first game for the Steelheads back in 2018, Ranger struggled to find a role with the team. In 26 games over his previous two seasons, he averaged a save percentage of .860, which was glorified due to the team’s struggles.
However, the 2020-21 OHL season cancellation allowed Ranger to have 18 months to work on his game. With a record of 12-2-3, a save percentage of .928, and a goals-against-average (GAA) of 1.97, he is excelling in his current role. He is now playing his best hockey to date and looks to have a potential professional career ahead of him.
Acquiring Roman Basran via waivers allows him to be the backup goaltender, although it wasn’t the case when that transaction initially took place. Basran has exceeded all expectations that the organization had for him coming in, and Ranger has proved to relieve him on certain occasions.
Julia Tocheri and Liam Ham Provide Brilliant Commentary
Since holding down the position of in-game host back in 2019-20, Tocheri has come a long way in the sports media landscape. She currently co-hosts the radio show ‘Leafs Lunch’ each weekday on TSN 1050, and creates social media content for the team at BarDown.
Tocheri has not forgotten her roots, and neither have the Steelheads. Earlier this month, the team’s Twitter account was hilariously debating with the Oshawa Generals, Peterborough Petes, and Sarnia Sting. The social media battle was in regards to which organization was most preferred by the members of Bardown, and the answer was inconclusive.
Fast forward to Friday night, and Tocheri is the play-by-play commentator for CHL TV alongside former team captain Liam Ham as the colour commentator. It was her first time calling a game since March 2020, and she provided a lot of enthusiasm and insight, while Ham was able to offer an insider perspective, having played with 11 members on the current roster.
Looking to continue on their upward trend, the Steelheads prepare to face the Niagara IceDogs on Sunday afternoon at their home of Paramount Fine Foods Centre. The first tilt of a home-and-home series, puck drop is scheduled for 2:00pmET.