Published April 2, 2023

Colts grab control of series as Bulldogs continue parade to box

Brandt Clarke, the Colts captain, had a goal and three assists
Barrie Colts - Hamilton Bulldogs Game 2

The Barrie Colts continue to make the Hamilton Bulldogs pay for a steady parade to the penalty box and it's helped them grab control of their Eastern Conference quarter-final series.

The lack of discipline continued for the Bulldogs Saturday night, as Barrie scored a pair of power-play goals midway through the first period and never looked back en route to a 6-3 win in front of a jam-packed crowd of 4,263 fans at Sadlon Arena.

Two nights after a four-goal performance with the man advantage helped them bury Hamilton 10-2, the Colts punished them again to grab a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven series.

"They've taken a lot of penalties and we've cashed in," said McDonnell, who assisted on Callum Chisholm's power-play goal to open the scoring and then just over two minutes later buried his own on a perfect feed from Beau Akey. "We got two power-play goals tonight and had a few (four) last night, so if they want to keep taking penalties hopefully we can keep burying them."

The Colts entered the playoffs with the league's fourth-best power-play unit at a 25.3 per cent success rate and through just two playoff games they already have six goals on 14 chances, clicking at an impressive 42.9 per cent.

"The power play is cooking right now and we've done a good job with that," said Colts head coach Marty Williamson. "We got ourselves a couple of goals and then we were able to chip in a couple of different times to spread the lead out."

Barrie will look to grab a stranglehold of the series when the two teams go right back at it for Game 3 Sunday night at the FirstOntario Centre in Hamilton.

"At their barn it's going to be tougher, but we took advantage of the two games at home," said McDonell, who now has three goals and two assists for five points in two games. "We're going to come in ready (Sunday) and get the two points."

It was another big night for Brandt Clarke. The Colts captain had a goal and three assists and now leads all OHL scorers with three goals and seven assists for 10 points in just two playoff games.

The game also marked the return of Ethan Cardwell and Even Vierling to the lineup after both star overagers missed the opener after feeling under the weather.

They hardly missed a beat with Cardwell scoring twice and Vierling grabbing an assist on his linemate's second of the net that gave Barrie a commanding 6-1 lead almost midway through the third.

"There's a reason why they are both our leading scorers," said Williamson. "Both of them are steady playmakers and they put a team on their heels and obviously that would be one of their focuses, but again it's that balanced scoring."

Braden Hache also scored for the Colts, who have already had nine different players fill the net in just two games.

The Colts were without Beau Jelsma after he was concussed in Thursday's contest on a head check by Sahil Panwar, but Zach Wigle stepped in between Tyler Savard and McDonnell and the trio was a force all contest.

"McDonnell is playing great hockey for us," said Williamson. "We didn't really seem to lose a beat and, five-on-five, him, Wigle and Savard was our best line again."

The two veteran wingers have been banging and crashing from the drop of the puck in Game 1.

"Savard and I have a lot of fun playing together, we have similar games," said McDonnell. "We just want to get in, move our feet and we always finish our checks.

"We just want to make it hard for the other team to play against. We just got to keep doing that."

Noah Van Vliet, Nick Lardis and Adrien Rebelo scored for the Bulldogs who were better than they were in Game 1, but still not good enough.

Hamilton stayed out of the penalty box in the first half of the second and managed to play their best hockey of the series, but it came undone midway through the frame when Clarke and Cardwell scored just 45 seconds apart to make it 4-0.

"That's what our team can do," said Williamson. "Stay patient, don't give up big mistakes, and then we have guys that can score goals. So, when we get those opportunities bury it."

Down 6-1 in the third, the Bulldogs tried to rally, cutting the lead in half on goals by Lardis and Rebelo, but an unnecessary penalty by Lawson Sherk on Clarke late negated a power play and sent the Bulldogs home in a hole.

"They'll get their line matches now and be able to do what they want to do, and we've got to be conscious that our line changes have to be good and just focus on the little things," said Williamson. "That's a big thing with our team. When we're most consistent, it's the little things that we take care of.

"We know we're fast, we know we can check some boxes, but sometimes lose detail. We were pretty good, but I don't think we were as good as the first game. We had a few more turnovers and that, but we were pretty good."

Game time tonight is 7 p.m.

ICE CHIPS: Game 4 goes Tuesday night in Hamilton. . . Jelsma is out until next Thursday at the earliest. "Jelsma is in concussion protocol," Williamson said. "Seven days is Thursday and we have a chance for him with Thursday and maybe by the weekend, he'll be playing. He's still concussed." Panwar was suspended by the league indefinitely for the hit to the head of Jelsma. . . Punnett is also expected to miss at least Sunday. . .  Akey had two beautiful setups on Barrie's first two goals. . . Anson Thornton made 26 saves to pick up the win in goal. Tristan Malboeuf got the call once again for Hamilton and finished the contest with 30 saves. . . The Colts went 2-for-5 on the power play, while the Bulldogs went scores on their five opportunities.

Banner image via Terry Wilson / OHL Images

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