Steelheads down Troops 4-1

MISSISSAUGA, Ont. — Spencer Watson scored a shorthanded goal and added three assists to power the Mississauga Steelheads to a 4-1 Ontario Hockey League victory Friday night over the North Bay Battalion, denying the Troops any advance in their battle for an Eastern Conference playoff berth.

Michael McLeod contributed one goal and two assists, Jacob Cascagnette had one goal and one assist and Nicolas Hague scored a shorthanded empty-netter for Mississauga, which moved its won-lost-extended record to 28-19-13 for 69 points atop the Central Division.  Goaltender Matthew Mancina made 21 saves before an announced crowd of 3,076.

Brett McKenzie scored for the Battalion, 22-34-5 for 49 points, fourth in the division and ninth in the conference. Goaltender Julian Sime made 23 saves. The Troops went 1-4-1 against Mississauga this season.

North Bay didn’t lose any ground in the standings to the Ottawa 67’s and Niagara IceDogs, who are one point ahead of the Battalion and hold the last two playoff positions in the conference. The host Kingston Frontenacs downed Ottawa 4-0, while the Erie Otters routed visiting Niagara 10-1.

Penalty killer Watson opened the scoring with his 24th goal of the season at 5:53 of the second period, grabbing a Zach Shankar turnover, dashing down the right wing with Shankar in pursuit and beating Sime high to the stick side.

McLeod struck for his 22nd goal at 18:00 after Cascagnette’s drive from the deep slot was blocked. Cascagnette corralled the rebound and slid the puck across to McLeod on the left side for the conversion.

The Battalion outshot Mississauga 9-8 in the period. Mancina made an early stop on Brady Lyle with the Troops on the power play, and Adam Thilander put the rebound wide of an open net. Mancina found Shankar’s shot from the blue line through traffic in the 14th minute. Sime produced solid stops on Hague, Stefan LeBlanc and Nathan Bastian.

Cascagnette scored with the man advantage at 4:17 of the third period, burying a cross-crease pass from McLeod while stationed on the right side.

McKenzie got North Bay on the board on the power play at 16:32, splitting defenders LeBlanc and Jacob Moverare and beating Mancina with a snap shot to the glove side. Steve Harland and Lyle assisted on McKenzie’s team-leading 28th goal.

Sime left for a sixth attacker with 2:23 to play, and the Battalion added to the skating advantage at 18:00 when Marcus Dickerson was whistled for delay of game.

Even with Sime staying on the bench and the Troops skating six against four, they failed to generate a strong scoring chance, and defenceman Hague hit the empty net at 18:33 off a two-on-one rush with Watson.

Each team had one power play in the scoreless first period, in which Mississauga had a 12-8 edge in shots.

McKenzie and Adam McMaster had early chances, and Mancina denied a net drive by Harland in the ninth minute. Mancina stopped a McMaster shot off the right wing in the 14th minute.

Sime turned away a Trent Fox blast from the slot and stopped Aidan McFarland’s attempt at the rebound in the seventh minute. Sime also denied Watson at the right post in the 16th minute and made two quick saves on McLeod in the 17th.

The Battalion plays host to the Hamilton Bulldogs at 2 p.m. Sunday.

BATTALION BULLETS: McKenzie played a 257th game, taking sole possession of eighth place on the franchise list ahead of Dylan Blujus. In six games against the Trout, McKenzie had three goals and two assists for five points … The Battalion went 1-for-5 on the power play. Mississauga was 1-for-3 … The Troops last allowed two shorthanded goals on Feb. 6, 2011, when Kenny Ryan and Tom Kuhnhackl struck for the Windsor Spitfires at Brampton … Opening lines featured McKenzie centring left winger Max Kislinger and right winger Harland, Kyle Potts pivoting McMaster on left wing and right winger Justin Brazeau and Brett Hargrave centring left winger Brad Chenier and right winger Zach Poirier. Rhys Forhan centred left winger Brett Hahkala and Daniel Walker on right wing … The Battalion was without Eric Allair, Cam Dineen, Riley Bruce, Jacob Ball, Daniil Vertiy and Mat Woroniuk … Hahkala and defenceman Bo Peltier were up from the junior A Powassan Voodoos … McLeod has six goals and eight assists for 14 points in the last four games … Watson has four goals and seven assists for 11 points in the last four games … Mississauga defenceman Stephen Gibson turned 20 … A Steelheads game last Sunday against the Sudbury Wolves was postponed because an ad painted into the Hershey Centre ice came to the surface during warmup. The game will be played March 21, two days after the original end of the schedule.

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