After riding a strong 50-save performance by Jeremy Brodeur to a game one victory on Friday night, the Oshawa Generals were back on the ice at the Hershey Centre in Mississauga on Sunday afternoon, fully aware that they would need a much better effort in game two if they were to bring a two games to none series lead home to Oshawa.
Completely outplayed by the Steelheads in game one, Brodeur’s heroics led the Generals to a surprising 3-2 win, giving Oshawa the early lead in the best-of-seven series in the OHL’s Eastern Conference Semi-Finals.
The Generals were aware that they would need a good start on Sunday afternoon, and got exactly that when Renars Krastenbergs put Oshawa on the board first just two and a half minutes into the game. Capitalizing on some strong work in the Mississauga zone, the Latvian jumped to a loose puck in the slot and fired a shot that took a lucky bounce off of a Steelheads defender in front of Matthew Mancina, playing his second straight game in net for Missy after missing the first round due to injury.
The momentum gained by the Gens would be short-lived, however, as Mississauga rebounded with a goal of their own just 20 seconds later, as Ryan McLeod ripped a shot high over Brodeur, tucking the puck just under the bar to knot things up before the three minute mark of the contest.
Just three minutes later, the Steelheads took their first lead of the series, taking advantage of a rare error from Brodeur in the Oshawa goal. Lackadaisical with a shot that he thought he had in his glove, the Generals netminder was surprised when Mississauga’s Trent Fox slapped the loose biscuit into the net, putting his squad ahead 2-1.
Outshot 10-3 in the first ten minutes of the contest, the Generals began to find their legs in the second half of the opening frame, closing the gap on the shot clock as they searched for the tying goal. Instead, they would suffer a large setback in the dying seconds of the period, as Owen Tippett ripped a shot past Brodeur seconds after the Gens keeper made a stop with his helmet.
The goal would give Mississauga a 3-1 lead heading to period two, where a war of attrition settled into the Hershey Centre, as the teams traded chances and goals throughout the middle stanza. Domenic Commisso got the ball rolling in the second, cutting the Steelheads lead to one less than five minutes in with a spinaround goal that found its way through Mancina.
Mississauga would restore the two-goal lead at the midpoint of the second period when Jacob Cascagnette deftly redirected a Matthew Titus pass into the goal behind Brodeur, putting the Steelheads up 4-2. Just 61 seconds later, the Generals would get back to within a goal after some great work by Allan McShane created the opportunity that would be converted by Eric Henderson. For McShane, the assist would be his first OHL playoff point, snapping an eight-game drought that has seen the highly-touted Gens rookie pointless since March 18th.
The second period would be the first period of the series where the Generals really appeared to take the play to the Steelheads, but much as had happened in period one, a late goal by Mississauga deflated Oshawa’s comeback hopes. A shot from the top of the faceoff circle by Nicolas Hague would be deflected right in front of Brodeur by Spencer Watson, the puck squeaking through the legs of the overage goaltender to restore Mississauga’s two-goal lead with less than two minutes remaining in the period.
For Hague, the assist on the Watson goal would be his third of the contest, after the Steelheads top offensive defenceman was held to just a single assist in the first seven games of this year’s playoffs.
The Gens would look to push back in period three, needing a pair of goals to even the game and avoid seeing the series shift back to Oshawa tied. Dreams of a Generals comeback would be thwarted five minutes into the third period when sophomore winger Brendan Harrogate pushed the puck past Brodeur after getting a couple of chances in front of the Oshawa net.
With the Steelheads lead now at three goals, the Generals were forced to take more chances as they looked to climb back into the contest over the final fifteen minutes. Mancina was strong in goal for Mississauga when called upon, ensuring that Oshawa could get no closer on this afternoon. Rookie Matthew Titus would score his first OHL playoff goal with one minute remaining, sealing a comfortable 7-3 victory for the Steelheads.
With the win in game two, Mississauga fought back to earn a split in the opening two games of the series on home ice, and ensure that this OHL Eastern Conference Semi-Final series will see at least five games. The series now shifts to the Tribute Communities Centre in Oshawa for the next three games, which begin with game three on Tuesday evening. Game four will follow on Thursday night and game five is scheduled for Saturday afternoon in Oshawa, with the series then shifting back to Mississauga, if required, to wrap up the series with games six and seven.
The Generals will look to take advantage of home ice to take control of the series, as Oshawa boasts the second best home record in the OHL. Working against them, however, is the fact that the Steelheads are the top team in the Eastern Conference on the road, which should set up three intriguing contests at the TCC this week.
FEATURED PHOTO: Trent Fox of the Mississauga Steelheads celebrates his first-period goal as his club defeated the Generals 7-3 on Sunday, April 9, 2017. The OHL Eastern Conference Semi-Finals are now tied at a game apiece. (Photo: RogersTV Screenshot)
Anthony Nicholson is Managing Editor of The Oshawa Times, and will be covering the Oshawa Generals in addition to various events around Durham. Anthony has covered the OHL since 2008 as Sports & Entertainment Editor for the N24 News Network and former colour commentator for Generals radio broadcasts. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter.