Even then, the country’s top-ranked junior hockey team passed with flying colours.
Arber Xhekaj scored 1:49 into overtime Friday night as the Bulldogs rallied from a 2-1 deficit in the second period to beat the Mississauga Steelheads 3-2.
The victory gives Hamilton back-to-back playoff series sweeps this spring and vaults the club into the Eastern Conference Final for the first time since the Dogs won the OHL Championship in 2017-18.
Mississauga’s Vander Zecchia opened the scoring for the Steelheads just 59 seconds into the game before Hamilton drew even 43 seconds later with a goal by Ryan Humphrey.
Aiden Prueter restored the Steelheads’ one goal lead with 4:31 left to play in the opening period when he sniped home a one-time past Hamilton’s Marco Costantini.
The Dogs evened the score again 1:03 into the second frame thanks to a short-handed goal from Mason McTavish.
Costantini made 27 saves in Hamilton’s eighth straight playoff win and 18th win in a row dating back to the regular season.
The Steelheads got 31 saves from goalie Joe Ranger in front of 2,906 fans at Paramount Fine Foods Centre in Mississauga.
Hamilton will play North Bay or Kingston in the East Final.
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