Published February 24, 2023

Colts 'clean it up' in third and shutdown Otters

Cruise to 5-1 win with dominating final period

The Barrie Colts held a 3-l lead after two periods against the Erie Otters Thursday night, but head coach Marty Williamson was far from happy in the second intermission.

Disappointed with the way his club played defensively in the middle frame, the bench boss demanded far better in the third.

He got it and then some.

The Colts scored twice in a dominating final period that resulted in two more goals, just five shots against and the Otters not even getting a sniff offensively to wrap up a 5-1 win at Sadlon Arena.

"We're trying to get them to buy in and understand," said Williamson, who with victory moved into a tie with Dale Hawerchuk for most all-time wins behind the bench (305) in franchise history. "I was a little disappointed with the second period with some turnovers, but I thought we played a really good third period. That's the way we got to play, not give them much at all."

The message from the coach got through loud and clear.

"He came (into) the second intermission and said we had to clean it up, and some people were selfish, so play our game," said overage forward Declan McDonnell, who opened the scoring with a power-play marker late in the first. "I think in the third we just got back to our game and started making the right plays, getting pucks in deep and playing strong defensively.

"When they did get it in our zone, we got it out pretty quick. It was good to see we locked it down in the third, and now we have to carry it over for Oshawa on Saturday."

The Colts turnaround since November can be largely credited to their improvement on keeping pucks out of the net and their play without the puck.

Barrie has been especially stingy of late, with only nine goals against in its last five games.

"I think when they see rewards like tonight, and the shutout (4-0 over Kingston on Monday) and that, you're just not going to lose hockey games when you play strong defence," said Williamson. "We're going to score goals, but when you play like that you just smother teams and not give them odd-man rushes and stuff like that. It's a recipe for winning in the playoffs.

"That's what we talked about as a team. I got them to tell me what's it take to win in the playoffs, and it was unanimous defence and a tight scoring game, and if it's that kind of thing, then all those little things matter."

Evan Vierling, with a pair, Ethan Cardwell and Beau Jelsma also scored for Barrie (32-15-6-2), which moved to within three points of the North Bay Battalion atop the Central Division standings.

Pano Fimis, who tied it at 1-1 with just 48 seconds left in the first, had the lone goal for Erie (19-30-1-4), which had won three of its last four games coming into last night's action.

"We're playing really well defensively right now. We're paying attention to the systems," said McDonnell. "Marty's coaching us great, he's been hard on us. I think the boys are starting to buy in and play defensively.

"It's been pretty sound, so we're going to keep it going here down the stretch and keep working on our defensive game going into the playoffs."

Jelsma drove around a defenceman, cut in front and slid the puck around Erie goalie Kyle Downey for his 25 of the season just 2:14 into the third and the Colts were off and running.

They never took the foot off the pedal and left an Otters team coming off a 2-0 win over Owen Sound the night before standing still.

Vierling, on the power play, scored late in a game where Barrie almost hit the scoresheet a few more times.

"I know they set some goals to kind of set themselves back on track," said Williamson. "We looked fast in the third, got lots of scoring chances and we didn't give up anything. That's how you got to play.

"You look at a (Braden) Haché out there not giving any room to anybody. I thought he was outstanding for us tonight."

The Colts host the Generals on Saturday night, before wrapping up the weekend Sunday afternoon back on the road against the Niagara IceDogs.

McDonnell knows where teams are in the standings right now means nothing.

The veteran winger says the focus remains on their own game.

"We're just trying to show up with the same mindset every night whether it's North Bay or Ottawa or a lower seed," he said. "We got to show up every night and play the right way.

"We don't try to take teams lightly and just make sure we have the right mindset and try to finish strong."

Game time Saturday is 7:30 p.m.

ICE CHIPS: It seems only feeling under the weather can stop Vierling right now. The forward hit the 30-goal mark for the first time in his career and after missing Monday's win in Kingston with after feeling ill, he has recorded 10 goals and 14 points over his last seven games. The Aurora native has 68 points in 48 games this season and likely would be in or near the top five in league scoring had he not been in AHL camp and missed the start of the season. . . Anson Thornton made 19 saves in goal for Barrie to pick up his 22nd win in 36 games. . . Tyler Savard was stopped on a penalty shot at 15:12 of the second. . . Defencemen Connor Punnett and Brandt Clarke each added a pair of assists. Clarke increased his scoring streak to five games (1G, 8A), while Punnett now has seven points (2G, 5A) over his last six games.

banner image: Terry Wilson, OHL Images

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