MISSISSAUGA, Ontario — After opening the 2021 preseason with a 3-1 victory over the Guelph Storm back on Sept. 4, the Mississauga Steelheads were looking to improve to 2-0-0 this past Sunday in the latter match of their home-and-home series. The Storm, however, had other plans.
In what was their first home game since Mar. 6, 2020, the Steelheads’ return to the Paramount Fine Foods Centre was spoiled, falling to Guelph by a 7-6 count.
While this game was originally set for Sunday, Sept. 12, it was postponed until the 19th. The extra rest didn’t seem to deter the Steelheads’ offensive attack, although it did spark that of the Storm’s just a bit more in this one.
Things were looking very good for the home team early on as Mississauga jumped out to a commanding 6-2 lead. This was thanks, in large part, to 17-year-old Zakary Lavoie scoring a hat-trick in what was just his second game at the major-junior level. The native of Orleans,
Ontario, registered an assist on Sept. 4 in his OHL debut.
Danny Zhilkin cut the Mississauga lead to 6-3 with just under six minutes to go in the second before Chase Coughlan got the Storm to within two just 3:12 into the third.
The score remained 6-4 until late in the game when, with 4:28 remaining in regulation, Guelph scored again — courtesy of Jacob Maillet — to make it 6-5. Then, just 1:15 later, the Storm tied it and took the lead just 48 seconds after that to cap off a thrilling comeback victory for the visitors.
Of course, while the come-from-behind win did wonders for the Storm’s collective confident level, surrendering a four-goal lead is something the Steelheads want to move past as quickly as possible.
I spoke with Mississauga’s head coach, James Richmond, about the loss.
“Obviously losing Sunday’s game wasn’t what we wanted,” Richmond said. “We sure don’t like seeing four goals scored against us in a period.”
The game marked the OHL debut for Steelheads goaltender Justin DiLauro who, despite the finish, logged a very decent debut.
“The easiest thing as a coach is to point fingers at your goalie but Justin wasn’t bad,” Richmond noted. “He could be better, but he sure wasn’t the reason we lost Sunday.
As for how the Steelheads lost on Sunday, it is a lesson that the team, especially its inexperienced players, will need to learn from quickly.
“We need to understand that the OHL is a tough league to win in,” Richmond explained. “We cannot take the foot off the gas in this league, and we did that and lost the game. The good thing is we didn’t lose points in the standings. Now can we learn from that? That will be important for the coaches to drive home to the team.”
Despite the defeat, though, Coach Richmond can take away some major positives from Sunday’s outing.
“We really liked the way some of our younger guys played. If you go back and see who scored for us, all six goals were scored by first-year players,” the Steelheads head coach observed. “Zak Lavoie scored three and hit the post two other times. That’s pretty exciting for Zak and for the rest of the team. Owen Beck had a strong game all over the ice and he scored a goal driving the net. Luke Misa scored a beauty of a goal and was dangerous almost every time he stepped on the ice. Callum Chisholm scored a goal with a great net drive, which you have to do if you want to score at this level. So, all six goals scored by first-year players, that’s really encouraging and exciting at the same time. Up until Kasper Larsen, our new Import player from Denmark, left the game due to an injury, we thought he was the best [defenseman] on the ice. Evan Brand was [also really] strong for us all over the ice.”
While Sunday’s outcome wasn’t what they had hoped for, it is onward and upward for the Steelheads. Next up is a home-and-home series against the Kitchener Rangers, beginning this Friday in the K-Dub.
“We have two more exhibition games this weekend and our focus will be to be a little better than we were this past weekend,” Richmond said. “We need our returning players to be our leaders. We are excited to see our younger players continue to look like they belong in the OHL. We need to manage the puck better and keep our foot on the gas for the full 60 minutes. We have lots of things to work on before this weekend and I know the players and coaches are ready to put in the work.”
We will see just how perseverant the Steelheads can be this coming weekend as they further prepare for the fast-approaching regular season.
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