Teams look to their star players to lead the way come playoff time and Owen Tippett is certainly doing that for the Mississauga Steelheads in their Eastern Conference first-round series against the Barrie Colts. The Florida Panthers prospect notched his second game-winning goal in three games, hammering a shot past netminder Leo Lazarev early in the third period to give the Steelheads a 2-1 victory over the Colts on March 27 at the Hershey Centre.

The underdog Steelheads now lead the best-of-seven series, 2-1, and can put their Central Division rivals on the brink of elimination with a game four win March 29, back in Mississauga.

With the score even 1-1, Tippett and the Steelheads went to work off a faceoff win by Ryan McLeod in the Barrie zone. Albert Michnac fed it back to Tippet and the six-foot-two, 204-pound winger, who now has three goals and four points, took it from there. With Barrie’s Jaden Peca in pursuit, he cut along just inside the blue line and made a nifty move around Ben Hawerchuk before hammering a shot over the right shoulder of Lazarev.

The Colts had a late opportunity off a scramble in front of Mississauga goaltender Jacob Ingham, but it wasn’t enough in a game where both teams appeared somewhat weary after a Barrie win on home ice the night before.

“We had our chances,” Colts forward Jason Willms said. “Convert here and there and it’s a different game, but that’s playoff hockey for you. You got to always do the little things right. I think for us we’re trying to take some momentum and take some positives out of today’s game, but we’re going to get a good practice in and be ready for Game 4.”

For the third time in the series, it was Barrie that opened the scoring.

Aaron Luchuk, parked at the side of the net, chipped a puck over Ingham’s pad. It sat on the goal line before Dmitry Sokolov charged in to knock it home at 8:47 of the second period. The Colts had a couple of good chances to add to their lead before Michael McLeod evened things up a little more than seven minutes later when he weaved his way in front and lifted a backhand over Lazarev.

“We got a good goal there coming off a forecheck and they kind of get one back, but it’s a long series and we’re not going to dwell on it,” Willms said. “We’re down 2-1 and we’ve got guys on our team, Luchuk and (TJ) Fergus, that have been here before. I think it’s important we stay together as a group.”

Photo: Owen Tippett scored the game-winner early in the third period as the Mississauga Steelheads defeated the Barrie Colts, 2-1, on March 27, in OHL playoff action at the Hershey Centre. Mississauga now leads the best-of-seven Eastern Conference first-round series, 2-1. Game four goes March 29, back in Mississauga. OHL Images photo

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