After a pair of games where they were thoroughly outplayed in every aspect of the game, the Oshawa Generals returned to home ice on Tuesday night perhaps lucky to find themselves in a tied series with the Steelheads, each team earning a victory in Mississauga.
As the series shifted back to Oshawa for the first of three straight games at the Tribute Communities Centre, the Generals looked to seize momentum in the best-of-seven Eastern Conference Semi-Finals, but would need to find a way to quell the high-powered Steelheads offence that scored nine times in the first two games, including putting up seven in a game two victory on Sunday.
If not for the outstanding play of Oshawa goaltender Jeremy Brodeur in game one, the Generals could easily find themselves returning home down two games to none in the series, and would look to jump on the visitors early in game three on home ice. Instead, it would be the Steelheads who would continue to roll early in the contest, picking up right where they left off at the end of game two.
Coming off of a three-point performance on Sunday, Mississauga defenceman Nicolas Hague carried his hot play into game three, scoring less than five minutes into the contest. Four minutes later, the Steelheads picked up another goal from their blue line when Vili Saarijarvi beat Brodeur to double the lead, stunning the hometown Oshawa crowd early.
Just when everything appeared to be going the way of the Steelheads, the Generals showed great resiliency to get back into the game before the end of the period. Within two minutes of each other, first Renars Krastenbergs then Jack Studnicka potted goals for Oshawa to pull the Generals even with Mississauga headed to period two.
All of the hard work put forward by the Generals over the last half of the first period to get back into the contest would quickly be undone in a matter of minutes in the second period, as the Steelheads struck three times in eight minutes to crack game three wide open. After Spencer Watson squeaked a wrist shot through Brodeur, Mississauga retook momentum, adding two more over the next few minutes.
Less than a minute later, Owen Tippett restored the two-goal lead for the Steelheads with a powerplay marker, erasing the Generals two goals late in the first. Watson’s second goal of the night extended Mississauga’s lead to three before a late-period goal by Oshawa’s Danil Antropov gave the Generals some hope headed to the third.
Down a pair of goals, Oshawa needed a strong third period to find their way back into the contest, but they could not find a way to generate much offence towards Matthew Mancina in the Mississauga goal. Spencer Watson’s hat trick goal seven minutes into the frame ended the night of Jeremy Brodeur early, as he was replaced by third-string netminder Logan Gauthier to wrap up the contest. Gauthier’s last appearance in the OHL came on January 2, 2016, some 16 months ago, but he would be called into duty to replace the ailing Kyle Keyser.
Gauthier would fare little better upon entering the game, as he was beaten by Brendan Harrogate less than three minutes after replacing Brodeur, extending the Steelheads lead to 7-3. Krastenbergs would get one back for Oshawa on a powerplay in the final five minutes of the game, but the Generals fell in game three by a 7-4 score.
After taking game one of the series, Oshawa has now dropped two straight games to the Steelheads, giving Mississauga their first series lead in the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals. Through the first three games, the Generals have continuously been outmatched by the Steelheads in every category, a trend that will spell certain doom for Oshawa if they cannot figure out a way to compete with the Central Division Champions.
Any hope remaining for the Generals hinges on good performances in games four and five, both of which take place at the Tribute Communities Centre. Oshawa will look to even the series in game four on Thursday night, before hosting game five on Saturday afternoon. Games six and seven, if required, will shift back to the Hershey Centre in Mississauga.
FEATURED PHOTO: The Mississauga Steelheads celebrate one of their many goals on Tuesday, April 11, 2017, as they defeated the Oshawa Generals 7-4 to take a two games to one series lead in their OHL Eastern Conference Semi-Finals. (Photo: RogersTV screengrab)
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 email@example.com or on Twitter.