Although the score might not indicate it, Sunday’s matchup between Niagara and Mississauga was very close through 40 minutes. Mississauga was generating the high-danger scoring opportunities, but Niagara’s Joseph Constanzo was always in a position to stop them. After a scoreless opening frame, the IceDogs gained momentum and dragged a penalty, as Steelheads defensemen Evan Brand was called for roughing.
Left-winger Aidan Castle scored on the man-advantage after Niagara generated three consecutive shots. However, Mississauga could rely on their talent, and find the momentum needed to tack on five consecutive goals.
Let’s take a look at the three takeaways that came out of the OHL’s first-placed and last-placed teams.
Ty Collins Steps Up With Two Goal Performance
Jake Uberti played against his former team for the second time this season, but was used in a third-line role next to Kai Schwindt and Aidan Prueter. This meant that Steelheads Head Coach and General Manager James Richmond trusted Collins to continue playing on the team’s top line.
Niagara’s penalty killers gave Mississauga’s first power-play unit an excess of room to work with. James Hardie was able to glide through the half wall and pass the puck to Collins, who made a 180-degree pivot to score past the five-hole of Constanzo. It’s not even his usage at five-on-five that’s improved throughout the season, but he scored a power-play goal during this contest.
On his second goal of the afternoon, it was Luca DelBelBelluz who made a sharp cut to center ice in the neutral zone that ultimately set up the play. After creating room for himself, he sought out a passing lane to connect with Collins, who wound up for a powerful wrist shot at a difficult angle.
This play was very reminiscent of how this line has found success all season long; let Hardie and DelBelBelluz create the space, and Collins just needs to find open areas to receive the puck.
Calum Chisholm Displays Impressive Puck Handling Skills
Mississauga’s depth forward contributed to Sunday’s victory, with Chisholm using his big frame and wingspan to his advantage. Scoring in his second consecutive game, and the fourth-liner shows that he has an offensive spark to his skillset.
This play unfolded by IceDogs defender Isaac Enright making a risky play in the defensive zone, as he glid in front of his team’s net before backhanding the puck off the boards. Alec Leonard overskated and wasn’t in a position to receive the pass, so the puck glid to centre ice, where Chisholm retrieved it.
Now, with an open lane to the net and not much room to work with, Chisholm took a single stride and backhanded the puck over Constanzo’s shoulders. The former tenth-round pick showcased his quick puck-handling skills in this play and why having an offensive fourth-line is scary for the opposition. Playing alongside Luke Misa, who can skate effortlessly and create space for his teammates, Chisholm just needs to get to the proper areas to receive the puck.
Scary Collision For Owen Beck
During the game’s middle frame, players on both sides of the ice had to leave for the locker room. Steelheads forward Owen Beck collided with an IceDogs defender and slammed his head against the goal post, causing the net to dislodge. Fortunately, he would later return and was able to finish the battle.
It didn’t stop there, as Niagara’s Aidan Castle went down on the ice after being the recipient of a hit along the boards. The 18-year-old went down to his knees and could barely glide his way off the ice. Luckily, he was cleared by his team’s training staff and able to return for a couple shifts in the game’s third period.
An action-packed game is expected between the two clubs, as both head to St. Catherines for the home-and-home meeting on Saturday night at the Meridian Centre. It will be intriguing to see if the power play can continue to build on its recent success and improve.