Steelheads strike in OT to beat IceDogs

Ryan McLeod nets OT winner to avoid giant collapse

Ahead by three goals with less than half a period to play should seem like a safe lead, yet the Mississauga Steelheads were almost left with a very foul taste in their mouths against the Niagara IceDogs.

Mississauga (5-5-0-1) coughed up a 5-2 lead Friday night with only nine minutes left to play in the game after surrendering three goals to the IceDogs (3-7-1-0) in just under seven minutes.

But it was all Steelheads when the puck dropped in overtime as Ryan McLeod put the cherry on top of the team’s strong offensive attack, slicing down the middle of the ice two minutes into overtime and deposited the game winner. His goal secured the 6-5 victory and handed the IceDogs their fifth straight loss.

“It feels good (to get the OT winner),” McLeod said after the game. “It was kind of a lucky bounce off the defenceman, but I’m happy it went in.”

https://twitter.com/OHLSteelheads/status/789637749724835845

The Steelheads are getting used to late-game heroics. Their last three games have either gone into overtime or a shootout, and the team is 3-1 overall in extra-frame games this season.

“It’s always good to get in a couple three-on-three (overtime) games at the start of the year so later on in the year you’re prepared for it and know what guys to put out on the ice,” McLeod said. “It’s also a lot of fun playing three-on-three … it’s always a blast and I really like playing it.”

When you have the kind of offensive talent like the Steelheads do, three-on-three overtime isn’t the end of the world. Even though Mississauga blew its three-goal lead late, Steelheads winger Owen Tippett was confident the team could pull through given the overtime format.

Owen Tippett, right, takes a shot in overtime with Niagara IceDogs centre, Ben Jones (3) doing all he can to get in the way. Tippett had another big game for the Steelheads with two goals and an assist. He now has four two-goal games in his past five games.
Owen Tippett, right, takes a shot in overtime with Niagara IceDogs centre Ben Jones (3) doing all he can to get in the way. Tippett had another big game for the Steelheads with two goals and an assist. He now has four two-goal games in his past five games. (Kyle Morrison/Toronto Observer)

“Looking down our bench, we have the guys to play three-on-three (overtime) because we’re skilled on the back end and up front,” Tippett said. “It’s good to have confidence in the team behind you and just know that anyone can just step up and play.”

Tippett continued his hot streak with two goals and an assist on Friday night, which gave him 12 points in his last five games.

“I honestly don’t know (how I’m doing it),” Tippet said, after another strong offensive performance. “I’m just trying to find the net more and get into the closer areas and luckily they’re going in for me.”

The 17-year-old Tippett has been working with head coach James Richmond and it seems to be paying off. He’s been trying to angle his feet more to the centre of the ice and not settle for shots along the boards or at the blue-line, and instead get to the front of the net more.

Playing with New Jersey Devils prospects, Nathan Bastian and Michael McLeod also doesn’t hurt. Tippett said they’ve really started to find their rhythm as a line.

“It’s gotten to a point now where I know where (Bastian and McLeod) are going to be and if I ever get caught in a position where I don’t have anything else to do I can put the puck down low and I know one of them is going to get there,” Tippett said. “It’s just good to know (Bastian and McLeod) are up there with me and they will find a spot to get open that I can pass the puck to.”

The Steelheads have wins in four of their last six games and will host the Kitchener Rangers (7-3-0-0) on Sunday.