Published January 29, 2023

Solid third helps Colts beat Flint 6-4, snap three-game skid

Barrie jumped out to a 3-0 lead before the game was eight minutes old
Brandt Clarke Colts

It wasn't pretty at times and the issues that have plagued them were still there, but the Barrie Colts found a way to snap out of their recent skid Saturday night in Michigan.

Brandt Clarke and Beau Jelsma each scored twice to help the Colts put an end to a three-game losing streak with a 6-4 win over the Flint Firebirds at the Dort Financial Center in Michigan.

Barrie jumped out to a 3-0 lead before the game was eight minutes old, but as has been the case over the last couple of weeks some sloppy defensive play allowed their opponents to get right back in it.

With the game tied 4-4 heading to the third period, Jelsma would notch the game winner just 1:45 in and then iced it with an empty-netter to get the Colts (24-13-4-2) back in the win column.

"There's no easy times in this league," said Colts head coach Marty Williamson. "Whether you're up 3-0 or whether you're down 4-1, it's still hard work. I think we thought it was going to be a little easy and it kind of bit us in the rear end until we got our game kind of back."

Clarke knows he and his teammates can be better, especially on the defensive side of play.

"We're definitely not where we want to be right now," said the Colts captain, who has seven goals and 15 points in just eight games since being returned by the Los Angeles Kings. "We've slumped a bit. We've been kind of getting away from our systems. We want to be able to get back to our game of being able to lock it down, but I think today was a good learning lesson to show that we have perseverance.

"That we're never out of it when they have all the momentum. We have belief in each other that we're going to get the job done as we did today. Hopefully it's the turning point for us."

The winner on this night came on a beauty set play where Beau Akey sent a long pass from his own end to Jacob Frasca at the Flint blueline. Frasca slid the puck to a streaking Jelsma, who raced in and fired it past the glove of Flint goalie Will Cranley.

"It was a real good third period. There was a lot of good things in there," said Williamson. "It was a nice play on the Jelsma goal and I was very proud of a 16-year-old (Cole Beaudoin) sticking up for a kid (Cooper Matthews) when he gets hit.

"A lot of things that we can build on, that kind of inspired the team. I thought it was a much more inspired type period even though we made a few mistakes. You can win hockey games. (Anson) Thornton made some good saves for us too."

The third, said Clarke, shows the strong perseverance the club has.

"They were all over us," said the Colts captain. "We came in the room and we reset. We did what we had to win this third. We wanted a big third to show that we don't get down on ourselves, that we're going to get back in this game and we're going to get these two points, and we did.

"We have a lot to be proud of and a lot more to work on."

That means getting back to the style of play that gave their opponents few chances and helped them earn points in 16 of 17 games from late November to mid-January.

Right now, the Colts are playing too loose.

"A 100 per cent. There's just a night and day difference between this hockey team when we want to play the right way," said Williamson. "When we force this game and try to make fancy plays, we turn the puck over. It's a slap in the face to the guys, because it's 100 per cent obvious what our problems are. That's what's frustrating.

"We can be an awfully good hockey team if we just keep this game the way we want to play and understand our strengths and weaknesses. We're still scoring enough, we don't need to cheat."

Ethan Cardwell and Declan McDonnell also scored for the Colts, who have yet to lose a game in franchise history in Flint. Barrie has now all six games at the Dort Financial Center.

"It was my first time ever here, so I wasn't too much of a contributor in that," said Clarke, adding a chuckle. "That's kind of cool that the Colts have never lost here, but it's good to add another win to that today.

"It was my first win, I can't take too much credit."

Former Colt Riley Piercey, Ethan Hay and Coulson Pitre had a goal and assist each to lead the Firebirds (22-21-2-1), who were playing their third game in three nights.

Artem Guryev also scored for Flint, which outshot Barrie 39-35.

Barrie finishes off its three-in-three weekend road trip Sunday night when they take on the slumping Saginaw Spirit.

Saginaw, which unloaded at the trade deadline, has lost seven straight and took it on the chin at home Saturday with an 8-2 loss to Sarnia.

"They're a good team. They're a puck possession team and play good hockey," Williamson said of the Spirit. "It'll be a tough game in there. It's our third in three nights and those are tough, but we can't make excuses. We got to play a smart game.

"Whether we win or lose, we just got to play a smart game and give ourselves an opportunity."

Game time is 5:30 p.m.

ICE CHIPS: Clarke was sporting a visor to cover up some dental work after taking a high stick in the face in Kitchener on Friday. "It's not ideal. I don't want it," he said. "I want to get back (to playing without one), but it will have to do for the time being.". . . Williamson was changing his lines and defensive pairs a fair bit on Saturday. "It's the combination of whoever is playing hardest," he said. "This isn't peewee hockey where you just keep rolling out guys if they're not contributing. We need guys to battle every shift. Ice time is earned, not given.". . . Barrie kicks off another busy month Friday in Oshawa with six games in nine days. They play 13 times in 28 days in February. . .  Frasca had three helpers on the night, while Jelsma also added a helper for a three-point night.

Banner image via Terry Wilson/OHL Images

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