Barrie scores five in third for 5-1 victory over Mississauga to win series in seven games
The Barrie Colts move on to the next round after beating the Steelheads at the BMC Tuesday night. MARK WANZEL Photo
In the biggest game of the year, your best players have to be just that.
It took a couple of periods, but the stars for the Barrie Colts would shine through.
Justin Scott scored a hat trick as the Colts exploded for five goals in the third, defeating the Mississauga Steelheads 5-1 on Tuesday night to win their best-of-seven Eastern Conference Quarter-Final series 4-3.
“That was a huge, character win for us and I have to give a lot of credit to my linemates,” said Scott, who scored 10 goals in the series. “They were amazing tonight.”
With the magnitude of this game not lost on either team, they chose to play it safe in a scoreless first period.
Both teams focused on playing defence first, limiting the number of quality opportunities on Mississauga's Jack Flinn and Barrie's Mackenzie Blackwood.
The Colts had an early scare, when, less than two minutes in, Josh Carrick's point shot went well wide and hit Kevin Labanc in the mouth, causing him to drop to the ice, where he lay until the whistle blew.
Labanc was helped off the ice and checked out, and fortunately for Barrie, he returned to the game later in the first period.
“Kevin Labanc, getting a couple of stitches on his face and then returning to the game, that's playoff hockey,” Scott said. “That shows a lot of character by him.”
Mississauga's best chance came on Labanc's first shift back, and with the Colts overager set to receive a delayed penalty, Michael McLeod sent a cross-crease pass to Alexander Nylander, who was denied by the right pad of Blackwood.
Barrie wasn't able to get the six-foot-eight Flinn to open up in the first, save for one Justin Scott attempt, but the Steelheads goalie squeezed the pads just enough to keep it from trickling through.
The Colts continued to get shots towards the net in the second, but most of them were directed right into Flinn's chest.
One of the only chances that didn't land there was when Anthony Stefano went in alone on a short-handed breakaway, but Flinn stuck out the glove to make the stop.
With very little getting through on either side, it took a fortunate break to open the scoring for the Steelheads.
Daniel Muzito-Bagenda took a shot from inside the left faceoff dot, but didn't get all of it.
McLeod was standing in front and he redirected the puck through Blackwood to give Mississauga a 1-0 lead after two periods.
“We had a lot of good opportunities throughout the game, and we saw that their goalie was getting a lot of good bounces,” said Colts captain Michael Webster. “We knew it was going to turn, and it was going to turn hard.
“It was a gutsy effort by the whole team.”
The Colts entered the third with their season on the line, and starting trying to make smarter plays rather than just simply playing it safe.
And sure enough, the same player that had willed them through to this point was the one to even the score.
Scott took a pass from Ben Hawerchuk and stickhandled past a defenceman before dragging the puck to his side, getting Flinn to open up.
Once he did, Scott slipped the puck under the goalie's leg to tie the game at 1-1, causing the Barrie Molson Centre crowd to erupt.
“I really wanted that,” Scott said. “We needed to get on the board and I was able to fake him one way and cut back in, and I got him low there.”
That marker not only evened the score, but put some serious wind into the Colts' sails.
“We knew that once we got that one, we were going to get a few more,” Webster said. “That was a great effort by him.
“We talked about patience, and we really needed that.”
The Colts had more energy after the goal, and kept things going while on the power play.
Some significant possession time and passing would pay off, as Andrew Mangiapane was set up in the slot and he one-timed a blast past Flinn, giving Barrie a 2-1 advantage.
“It was huge having home ice there,” Scott said. “This series has been hugely based on momentum.
“When we got that first goal, we got the crowd behind us, and then it was a huge power-play goal by Mangiapane as well, so that always helps.”
The Colts had been putting pucks into Flinn's chest for the entire series, allowing the large, but at times, awkward goaltender to simply hold his position and freeze it.
That trend continued to change when Labanc attempted to go high blocker side, and Flinn made the stop, not moving a muscle as he believed he had possession of the puck.
He didn't, though, and as it dropped to his side, Scott whacked home the wide-open rebound to make it 3-1 Colts.
Scott would complete the hat trick on a man advantage just a few minutes later, when he took a feed down low from Greg DiTomaso and cut around the already-committed Flinn before roofing one to give the Colts a 4-1 cushion.
“I think the hat-trick (goal) kind of settled it,” Scott said. “But again, it's huge the way my team defended and battled.
“That Mississauga team has a ton of offence there.”
The Steelheads pulled their goalie with over three minutes left and got a power play, but never really threatened, and the Colts cleared the puck out twice.
On the second clearing attempt, Labanc set up Mangiapane, who sent it back to his fellow winger, and the regular-season scoring leader fired the puck into the empty net to seal the deal.
The Colts will play the North Bay Battalion for the third consecutive year in the Eastern Conference Semifinals. Game 1 goes Thursday n ight in Barrie.
COLTS ON THE SCORE SHEET:
Justin Scott: 3G (10 goals in first-round series)
Kevin Labanc: 1G, 2A
Andrew Mangiapane: 1G, 1A
Greg DiTomaso: 1A
Ben Hawerchuk: 1A
Julius Nattinen: 1A
Mackenzie Blackwood: 22 saves
Seventh heaven – The Barrie Colts and Mississauga Steelheads both played their ninth Game 7 in franchise history. Barrie came into Tuesday with a record of 3-5, having had its most recent do-or-die contests coming in 2013, where it defeated the Belleville Bulls in the conference finals, but lost to the London Knights in the OHL championship. The Steelheads carried a 6-2 record into Tuesday, but were just 1-1 since moving to Mississauga. Their last Game 7 was a loss in the 2011 OHL final against the Owen Sound Attack.
Out-of-town scoreboard – There were three Game 7's on Tuesday. In the East, North Bay eliminated Peterborough with a 4-1 win on home ice. Meanwhile, Sault Ste. Marie upset Sarnia in seven games with a 4-3 victory.
Not dressed for tonight's game – Barrie was without Kody Gagnon, Lucas Chiodo, Matt Brassard, Aidan Brown, Dylan Sadowy and Ruan Badenhorst. Mississauga scratched Daniel De Sousa, Brandon Yeamans, Jake O'Donnell, Brendan Harrogate and Nathian Bastian.
(Almost) no stopping Nylander – Steelheads phenom Alexander Nylander has appeared in every contest of this series save for the first one, and other than Game 5, has scored multiple points each time. Nylander entered Tuesday with a series-high 11 points in just six games, which was also more than double what any rookie had produced in the first round.
How the Eastern Conference Quarter-Finals shapes up:
Game 1, Thurs, Mar 24 at Barrie – POSTPONED
Game 1, Sat, Mar 26 Mississauga 2 at Barrie 5
Game 2, Mon, Mar 28 Mississauga 6 at Barrie 3
Game 3, Tues, Mar 29 Barrie 3 at Mississauga 4 (2OT)
Game 4, Thurs, Mar 31 Barrie 6 at Mississauga 5 (OT)
Game 5, Sat, Apr 2 Mississauga 0 at Barrie 3
Game 6, Sun, Apr 3 Barrie 0 at Mississauga 7
Game 7, Tues, Apr 5 Mississauga 1 at Barrie 5