Colts humbled in disappointing loss to Bulldogs

Sloppy defensive play ultimately cost them 

With just six regulation losses in their last 27 games, the Barrie Colts have been among the OHL’s hottest teams since the Christmas break.

They looked little like that dominate team on Thursday night.

In easily their worst game in the last three months, the Colts fell 7-5 to the Hamilton Bulldogs at Sadlon Arena.

“This game will humble you,” said Colts head coach Marty Williamson, none too happy with his team on this night. “We looked like the team that was in November. Our effort picked up, but we were just not a smart hockey team tonight. It’s the most generous thing I can say.”

What could go wrong, did go wrong for Barrie, which had its four-game win streak snapped.

They immediately dug themselves a 3-0 hole midway through the first and while they twice battled back to get within a goal, sloppy defensive play ultimately cost them.

Numerous turnovers, several odd-man rushes against, a lack of discipline and a nightmare night on specialty teams where they gave up three power-play goals and a shorthanded marker all added up to a forgetful evening. 

“We looked like a cocky team that thought it was going to be easy and won our last four games and were just going to throw our sticks out and win this game,” Williamson added. “I told them between the first and second, this game can humble you in a second, and we got humbled tonight.”

While the wide-open affair may have been exciting for fans, the Colts resembled little of the team that has clawed to within a point of the North Bay Battalion atop the Central Division standings.

“It just wasn’t a great game all-in-all,” said overage forward Ethan Cardwell. “We’re a good team. We pride ourselves on our play on both sides of the puck, and tonight we didn’t play our game. That’s what happens when you don’t play your game. You get caught sleeping in games, and teams take advantage of you if you don’t play hard for 60 minutes.

“We fell asleep early and they capitalized.”

Cole Brown, with the hat trick and a four-point night, Patrick Thomas, Florian Xhekaj, Mason Wray, shorthanded, and Adrian Rebelo scored for Hamilton (29-25-4), which has won five of its last six games to move into a tie with Mississauga for fifth spot in the Eastern Conference, just a point behind Peterborough and home ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs.

Brandt Clarke, fresh off being named the OHL Defenceman of the Month for a second straight time, recorded the hat trick to run his point streak to eight games (5-11-16).

Declan McDonnell and Cole Beaudoin also scored for the Colts (34-16-6-2), who now trail North Bay by three points after the Troops 5-2 win against Sudbury last night.

Despite all their miscues, the Colts actually gave themselves an opportunity to pull this one out. Down 4-1 early in the second, they cut the lead to one on goals by Beaudoin and Clarke just 1:25 part.

Then down 6-3 late in the third, Clarke, completing his hat trick on the power play, and McDonnell scored a little more than two minutes apart to once again get them within one, but Rebelo turned another costly miscue into a goal and it was game over.

“We sure did,” said Williamson of his team giving themselves a chance. “That’s what I mean. We don’t quit. There’s signs there that we made too many dumb plays. You can’t put your finger on why other than just we were careless.”

Cardwell knows he and his teammates can be better Saturday when they host Mississauga.

“We’re a resilient group. It’s never an issue of work ethic,” he said. “It’s a matter of if we play the game properly for 60 minutes, and we can stay out of the box. We can do all the little things properly, and tonight we didn’t.

“We’re playing great hockey right now, so I think we can put this one behind us and move forward. But in order to do that, we got to get back to the basics.”

Williamson knows you can’t play hockey like that. You simply won’t win.

“The thing about these guys is that we’ve shown we can do it, and we can shake off a bad game like this,” he said. “It’s unfortunate. We don’t want them, but we shake it off. Get in a good practice (Friday) and get ready for Mississauga.”

Game time at Sadlon Arena is 7:30 p.m.

ICE CHIPS: Clarke has rocketed all the way up to 14th overall in scoring among OHL defenceman. The Colts captain now has 15 goals and 42 points in just 23 games. He is just five points behind London’s Logan Mailloux, who sits sixth overall, despite having played 37 fewer games. . . Anson Thornton had a rough night in goal for Barrie, giving up seven goals on 27 shots. Matteo Droback made 29 saves to get the win for Hamilton. . . Former Colt and current Saginaw Spirit forward Hunter Haight inked a three-year entry level deal with the Minnesota Wild on Thursday. . . Hamilton finished 3-for-5 on the power play, while Barrie was 1-for-4.

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