MISSISSAUGA, Ontario — After over a year-and-a-half of waiting, the Mississauga Steelheads were back at last, kicking off their 2021-22 regular season on the road against the Kingston Frontenacs.
Having just won one of their preseason games — their opener back on Sept. 4 — it’s safe to say that the Steelheads were in a tough position when their regular season opened. After all, in addition to their preseason woes, the Steelheads’ opponents had just got come off a sound 8-1 victory against the Ottawa 67’s this past Friday night. So, with the Frontenacs back in action on Saturday to take on Mississauga, a viable argument could have been made that Kingston would roll their momentum over to Saturday.
Fortunately for the Steelheads, however, this would not be the case.
Not only did Mississauga open their regular season in the win column, but they did so in convincing fashion, defeating Kingston by a 7-2 count.
Steelheads head coach James Richmond admitted that his team would be in tough against the Fronts. After all, despite the club finishing near the bottom of the OHL standings at the time of the 2019-20 season’s cancellation, the Fronts have plenty to look forward to this season. One of those reasons is Shane Wright, who is the front-runner to become next summer’s first-overall pick in the NHL Draft. Another is Wright’s linemate, Martin Chromiak, who, coming off an impressive training camp with the NHL’s Los Angeles Kings, is primed to have a breakout season.
Nevertheless, the Steelheads were not to be intimidated, although they did start Saturday’s contest off on a less-than-stellar note by taking a five-minute penalty. However, thanks to a solid penalty kill, in addition to great forechecking and creativity, the Steelheads survived the Kingston attack and even jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the opening frame.
Overall, this was exactly what the Steelheads needed. The latter statement may be a case of simply stating the obvious but nonetheless, the blue-and-white picked an ideal time to snap out of their preseason doldrums.
Among their goal-scorers on Saturday were Kai Schwindt and Owen Beck, each of whom registered their first career OHL tallies.
For the former, he hopes to pick up where his brother left off.
Cole Schwindt played for the Steelheads from 2017-2020, wrapping up his OHL career on a positive note with 28 goals and 71 points in 58 games before the 2019-20 season was abruptly halted. So, to suggest that Kai has big shoes to fill would be somewhat of an understatement.
To Kai’s credit, though, he got off to a strong start with his goal.
Just 17, Kai officially committed to the Steelheads this past summer. However, while he does follow in his brother’s path, the younger Schwindt brother is focused on creating his own path and his own identity. It’s been so far, so good for the Breslau, Ontario native, adding a plus-one rating and four shots on goal in his debut. He even won his lone faceoff battle.
As for Owen Beck, he recently graduated from the Cobourg Cougars of the Ontario Junior Hockey League in hopes of making his mark at the major-junior level. The Port Hope, Ontario native could not have asked for a better start, scoring his first OHL tally – against a very tough Kingston team no less. Beck also finished Saturday’s contest with a plus-one rating, four shots on goal, and won an impressive 17 of his 24 faceoff battles.
Like Kai, Beck is 17 and plans on being an integral part of the Steelheads’ future.
Another 17-year-old — who turns 18 next month — is center Luca Del Bel Belluz, who enters his first full season with the Steelheads.
After scoring a goal and five assists in the abbreviated 2019-20 season, Del Bel Belluz entered this season on a mission — and he started things off the right way, scoring four goals and two assists during the preseason. But, during his club’s regular-season opener in Kingston, Del Bel Belluz kept rolling, scoring two goals and an assist. Those numbers, paired with his plus-one rating, three shots, and 7-for-19 in the faceoff circle, earned the youngster First Star of the Game honours on Saturday.
They may look inexperienced but one of the key aspects to remember about sports — at any level — is that nothing is determined on paper.
Kai Schwindt, Owen Beck, and Luc Del Bel Belluz are just three pieces of evidence that what’s on paper is a moot point when that puck drops.
There are still 67 games to go in the regular season, and while they will deal with adversity along the way, do expect the Mississauga Steelheads to be pushed forward by their younger corps like they were on Saturday in Kingston.
Up next for the Steelheads is a date with the North Bay Battalion this coming Friday.
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