The Mississauga Steelheads have been thriving in the past few weeks, and just looking at the results from this past weekend, it’s clear that their defensive game has gotten much better. The team has played a tight structure led by their head coach James Richmond, and it’s evident by the number of turnovers that they’re generating in the neutral zone. It also helps that all four of their forward lines are very offensively gifted and can sustain possession for long periods.
However, the most significant component of this game was the performance of Roman Basran, who made some key saves to keep the game tied, especially on the penalty kill. As well, Chicago Blackhawks prospect and captain Ethan Del Mastro has been pivotal on both special teams units and continued to be so in this game.
Let’s take a look at the two biggest storylines to emerge, whether it was how a rookie was able to step up in the dying minutes and score the goal to give the team a lead or a potential injury to one of their best players in the third period, and how he attempted to return to the match.
Owen Beck Continues To Improve
Generals rookie forward Calum Ritchie has made a name for himself this season, especially after scoring the golden goal in the Capital City Challenge. However, Steelheads rookie forward Beck has been quietly producing at a similar rate and raising his stock ahead of the 2022 NHL Draft. He was named the Ontario Hockey Leagues (OHL) Rookie of the Month for November, after he produced five goals and 11 points in 11 games, and then he got two points in this matchup. He is a smart two-way player that displays exceptional poise with the puck, along with a deceptive wrist shot that tends to fool goaltenders.
After Boston Bruins prospect Brett Harrison tied the game at two, Beck scored the eventual game-winning goal with 1:19 remaining in the third period. He noticed both Generals defenders attacking Zackary Lavoie, which opened space for him to get open and find a clear pathway to the front of the net. After receiving the puck, he displayed great patience to bring the puck from his backhand to the forehand and waited an extra second to shoot the puck under the stick of Zachary Paputsakis. He was named the first star of the game, as he scored one goal, two points, and generated two shots. It’s starting to look like he is making a case for himself to be drafted earlier in the draft as his performance continues to progress and improve.
Looking at the other standouts, it cannot be understated how Basran was able to keep the team in this game. He made 24 saves on 26 shots, which has become a regular performance for the 20-year-old this season, as he currently has a record of 7-5-1 and a goals-against-average of 2.45. Considering Joe Ranger had a 22 save shutout on Friday night against the Ottawa 67’s, he made sure to live up to that star performance. He made multiple quality stops on Ritchie during the General’s first power play, as he had a clear shooting lane, but he used his strong positioning to catch it with his glove.
James Hardie Potentially Injured
James Hardie collided with Generals defensemen Lleyton Moore in the neutral zone during the third period and went down on the ice. The play immediately stopped, and it took him a while to finally get up and leave on his own doing. After some time went by, Hardie returned to the bench and skated for one last shift during the final minute of the game. He shot the puck out of the defensive zone with less than twenty seconds remaining, went down on the ice again, and was able to skate himself off the ice as the clock was expiring. His efforts secured the victory for the team, but he should have never been allowed back into the game in the first place.
The Steelheads medical staff did Hardie a massive disservice by allowing him to return to the game. Considering he could have damaged his potential injury more, it is not a good look that he was brought back out in the final minute. Even if he insisted on coming back, they shouldn’t have let him return, and it looks like the wrong decision based on his painful reaction. Expanding this conversation outside of this particular incident, the idea that a player should be a warrior and return to a game when severely injured is appalling. Patrice Bergeron fits into this category when he played with a punctured lung in the 2013 Stanley Cup Final with the Bruins. This is the part of Hockey culture that still needs changing, and hopefully, incidents such as this one involving Hardie will happen less as time progresses.
Looking at his goal in the third period, he displays the ability to find space in the middle of the ice and shoot a powerful wrist shot over the shoulder of Paputsakis. When healthy and at the top of his game, like he was earlier in this matchup, he is one of the best goal scorers in the league. He currently has 15 goals in 21 games, which ties him for fifth place in the entire league, and has progressively improved in that category since his rookie season in 2018-19.
The Steelheads next play against the Niagara Ice Dogs on home ice in a Friday night matchup. It will be a chance for the team to display their dominance over a struggling team, as the Ice Dogs rank last in the Central Division. It also provides an opportunity for any injured players to rest and not travel for the next five days and focus on school and hockey.
Jordan Jacklin is a freelance writer who covers the Buffalo Sabres here at The Hockey Writers. Jordan is a student at Ryerson’s Sport Media program and uses analytics and video scouting to evaluate your favourite players in the game.