MISSISSAUGA — The 67’s will now find out if home-ice advantage really is that much of an advantage in the seventh game of a playoff series.
Casey Cizikas scored twice, both on the power play, and JP Anderson made 32 saves as the Mississauga St. Michael’s Majors forced a deciding game in the Eastern Conference best-of-seven semi-final series with a 3-1 win on Saturday at the Hershey Centre.
The struggling Majors' power play was mired in an awful 3-for-41 stretch in the OHL post-season — including 0-for-19 in the first five games of their Eastern Conference semi-final series against the 67’s — but it finally got untracked in Game 6.
As a result, Game 7 is at the Urbandale Centre on Monday night (7 p.m.), with the winner taking on the Barrie Colts in the Eastern Conference final starting Wednesday in Barrie.
Mississauga went 2-for-8 with the extra man while stopping all five of the 67’s power-play opportunities on Saturday. Both teams said special teams were a big factor.
“They took advantage of some of the penalties we took and that was the difference,” said 67's coach Chris Byrne. “They played a good game and now we’re headed back home for game seven.
“We knew it was going to be tough right from the start and it’s gone back and forth, with both teams taking turns dominating. They are a great team and it’s been a real battle, but we’re looking forward to being at home for game seven.”
Cizikas opened the scoring on the power play with just 50 seconds left in the opening period and that turned out to be key for the Majors, who had the OHL's best defensive record in the regular season.
“It was nice to get a couple of power play goals that’s for sure, we’ve really been struggling with the extra man,” said Mississauga coach and GM Dave Cameron. “But the key for us is to keep our composure.
“When we do that and play our system we have a chance to win games and that’s what we did (Saturday).”
The Majors' lead expanded to 3-0 before the second period ended, as Dustin Ekelman scored at 15:40 and Cizikas converted a pass from Cameron Gaunce on a 5-on-3 power play at 18:02 of the seconds.
The 67's battled back in the third period on a goal from Tyler Toffoli at 5:40 to close within two, but the Majors defence proved too tough. When the 67's had their chances, Anderson was there to stop them.
Veteran 67's forward Corey Cowick feels his club will get a boost from its hometown fans for the decider on Monday.
“We’ll have eight thousand fans or so cheering for us on Monday, so we’re pretty comfortable playing a seventh game at home,” Cowick said. “The series has been a real battle, but we still have home-ice advantage for the deciding game and that’s what you want.
“It’s been a tough, physical series and a real battle. There’s been a lot of stuff going back and forth but we feel we’re ready for a deciding game. If we play smart, we’re confident we can get it done.”