Nathan Allensen poured everything he had into his five seasons as a Barrie Colt and it wasn’t any different on the night his junior hockey career would come to an end.
The overage defenceman scored twice as the Colts rallied from 5-1 third-period deficit to cut the lead to one late, but the valiant comeback would fall just short as the Mississauga Steelheads hung on for a 6-4 win to eliminate Barrie from the OHL playoffs, Monday night, at Sadlon Arena.
The win was the third straight for the Steelheads, who took the Eastern Conference best-of-seven first-round series 4-2.
Mississauga will face the top-seeded Hamilton Bulldogs in the second round.
A power-play marker by Ethan Cardwell cut the lead to 5-3 early in the third before Allensen brought the Barrie crowd to life.
The veteran took a feed from Cooper Matthews and then moved into the high slot and wired his second of the night past Roman Basran into the top left corner of the net with 2:44 remaining.
Then just 25 seconds later Cardwell would notch his second of the night to get the Colts to within one, but Innisfil native James Hardie, who was a force all series, fired his sixth of the series all the way down the ice into an empty net to send the Steelheads into the next round.
“It’s pretty crazy,” said an emotional Allensen trying to fight back the tears after being named the game’s first star. “I just tried to give the boys everything I got. It was pretty special. Me being able to wear the ‘C’ (captaincy) was kind of a farewell moment there. For them to give us the star there it was pretty special.
“I just don’t take this stuff for granted. It was probably the best five years of my life and I wouldn’t want to do it with any other guys in the world than the guys in the room. Just to go out with a bang there (two goals) . . . I tried to get my team to Game 7 there and unfortunately, it didn’t work out.”
It was also the final OHL game for overagers Mack Guzda and Anthony Tabak.
Guzda, who missed most of the latter part of the season with an injury, battled dehydration throughout the series, fighting through muscle cramps in the series opener before having to sit out both Game 3 and 4 at home last week.
The goaltender was emotional after the game and could only wonder what if they had tied it up late.
“It was an unbelievable job by the guys upfront to get some of those goals back,” said Guzda, who was named the game’s second star in a tribute to the Florida Panthers prospect. “Obviously, I wished I could have stopped a couple more. It’s always tough at the end of each series, just thinking back about what we could have done differently, but at the end of the day, I think our guys did everything they could.
“We put it all on the line right to the end and kept on fighting.”
Four Mississauga power-play goals on seven straight power-play chances did in the Colts on this night.
Specialty teams hadn’t played a big factor early in the series, but in Game 4 Mississauga got the double OT winner on a power play and then clinched the series last night with goals by Jake Uberti, Zakary Lavoie, his second of the game, Luca DelBelBelluz and Ty Collins in their first five opportunities with the man advantage.
“Unfortunately we just didn’t have an answer,” said Colts head coach Marty Williamson. “It just wasn’t good enough. The penalty kill didn’t do its job. Specialty teams we thought were going to be important at the beginning of this series, and then it turned out to be the thing that did us in a little bit.”
The Colts faced a daunting task beginning the third. Not only were they trailing 5-1, but they would open the period two men short for 1:33.
They would not only kill the remainder of the penalties but would come so close to completing an unbelievable comeback.
“All I said was I wanted to see character in the third period and the guys showed it,” said Williamson. “They played hard and it’s a game of inches. We got it to 5-4 and I looked up (at the clock) and saw (2:19) left.
“I knew we were going to get a couple of good looks and unfortunately the two sticks kind of met and it just found its way into the empty net.”
Daunting task or not, Allensen says there was no way he and his teammates were going to quit.
Barrie, which was outshot 34-15 in the opening two periods, outshot Mississauga 22-5 in the third.
“That just goes to say the type of character, the type of guys we have in our locker room,” said Allensen, who also had an assist on the night. “We definitely weren’t going to let that happen. I’m surprised we didn’t tie it up there. We gave it pretty much all we had in that third period.
“That was just a message from me and the older guys and everyone in the locker room. Just let’s give it everything we got and we’ll see what happens.”
While the Colts could have a big part of this roster returning next season, Colts head coach Marty Williamson didn’t want to discuss the future.
His focus was on the three veterans who had just put on a Colts jersey for the final time.
“I’ll think more about that (the future) in a week, but right now I feel for Allensen and Guzda and Tabak,” said Williamson, who turned 59 on Monday. “That’s their final game in junior hockey and we wanted to keep it going for them.
“Guzda wasn’t 100 per cent either and he’s out there battling for us. I love this hockey team, they’re a good group of guys. It’s sports and it just seems we couldn’t get things going our way for the last little bit of the season.”
ICE CHIPS: The rash of injury problems continued for the Colts into the playoffs. Williamson admits he wasn’t sure Monday morning if Declan McDonnell would play. “He just gutted it out for us,” he said. Beau Jelsma, who missed two earlier games in the series before returning in Game 4, was out again last night. . . A bad delay of game penalty on Chris Grisolia midway through the second proved costly for the Colts after Collins scored on the power play to make it 5-1. Replays clearly showed Grisolia’s clearing attempt didn’t go straight over the glass and actually hit the sticks of two Mississauga players before heading over the glass. . . Basran made several highlight-reel saves on the night, including robbing McDonnell in close with a right pad save.
feature image – Terry Wilson, OHL Images