Published January 8, 2023

Vierling pots overtime winner to lead tired Colts over IceDogs 4-3

The Colts trio of Beau Akey, Vierling and Cardwell were flying in overtime and the pressure paid off
Evan Vierling - Barrie Colts

Fatigued and held off the scoresheet by the Niagara IceDogs through three periods Saturday night, Barrie's top offensive duo of Evan Vierling and Ethan Cardwell more than made up for it in overtime.

With Barrie playing its third game in three nights, the veterans found a little extra in the tank and hooked up on Vierling's winner at 3:54 of the extra frame to help lead the Colts to a 4-3 win over a pesky Niagara IceDogs team at Sadlon Arena.

Having already played Thursday against Ottawa and Friday in Mississauga, the Colts began to wear down in the second before running out of steam in the third, but Vierling and his teammates found something in reserve just in time to dominate overtime and get the win.

"Obviously it was our third game in the three days, so we were tired," said Vierling. "At the end of the day, we just stuck to it, stuck to our structure and we got the job done."

The Colts trio of Beau Akey, Vierling and Cardwell were flying in overtime and the pressure paid off.

Vierling carried the puck into the faceoff circle to the left of Niagara's Josh Rosenzweig and left it for Cardwell. The overager then slid it back across the crease to Vierling who ripped it upstairs over the IceDogs goalie as he dove across the crease.

"It was awesome," said Vierling, who now has 18 goals on the season. "We hopped over the boards and got some good momentum. Him and Akey were kind of throwing it around. I just found the open ice and Cards found me.

"It was a great pass, so I was lucky to bury it."

Connor Punnett, Beau Jelsma and Jacob Frasca also scored for the Colts (19-10-4-2), who bounced back after having their 11-game point streak snapped in a listless 6-1 loss Friday in Mississauga.

Saturday's win wasn't pretty, but it got the job done.

"We were running on fumes. We looked like a pretty tired hockey team," said Colts general manager and head coach Marty Williamson, who felt his team also had Tuesday's (Jan. 10) OHL Trade Deadline on their minds. "This is a tough time for guys, it's pretty stressful. Someone out there might think they've been traded. I always find it's a very stressful time around trade deadline, so I thought that kind of added to the weight it seemed like we had on us a little bit."

On a night they weren't at their best, the Colts still found a way.

"I thought we persevered," added Williamson. "I don't know how many shots (Connor) Punnett blocked out there, he was like a goalie and had a fantastic effort for us. Then the three guys come through with a hell of a play for us at the end. Akey makes some nice plays and gets it to Cardwell and then Vierling finishes."

The IceDogs (8-18-5-1), who sit last overall in the OHL standings, were no easy pushover on this night.

They opened the scoring a little more than just two minutes in when Andrew LaBlanc finished off a two-on-one. After Punnett's seeing-eye shot from the point found the back of the net at 4:38 of the second period, Daniel Michaud beat Anson Thornton on a deke to the forehand to put the Dogs back in front.

Jelsma and Frasca would scored five minutes apart later in the frame to give Barrie its first lead, but Niagara would tie it at 3-3 early in the third when David Jesus' point shot hit Juan Copeland in front and bounced past Thornton.

"We watched them last night (in a 4-1 loss to Ottawa) and we thought they played a pretty controlled game and they did the same thing here," said Williamson. "They're not shooting themselves in the foot like they used to. They made us earn it and we got it done."

The big guns were quiet most of the game for the Colts, but they dominated the overtime, outshooting Niagara 7-0.

"They sure did," said Williamson. "It seemed like the ice was tilted a little bit. We had the puck throughout the whole overtime and give their goalie credit he made a lot of big saves to keep this thing close. It's just one of those games.

At the end of the year, it's two points and that was the most important thing for us. Four out of six (points) on the weekend. I'm a little disappointed with (Friday's loss in Mississauga), but at this time of the year it's OK."

The Colts will have a familiar face back on the ice when they return to practice this week. Brandt Clarke, fresh off his gold medal win with Canada at the world juniors, will join the team.

"Brandt will be here Monday, so that will liven up practice and we got to rearrange some things with the power play and stuff like that. We got some work to do, but we're looking forward to it."

Barrie kicks off another busy three-game week Thursday at home versus Flint, kicking off a stretch that will see them play nine times in 17 days to close out the month.

Barrie will then take to the ice for 13 games in 28 days in February.

"We just got to rest up," said Vierling. I think the guys are doing a good job keeping in shape. We just have to get our rest and we'll be fine."

ICE CHIPS: Williamson chuckled when asked how Barrie found the extra energy in overtime. "Guys like three-on-threes. Funny how that kind of works a little bit," he said with a smile. . . Punnett had an assist to go with his eighth goal, while Akey had two helpers. . . Barrie outshot Niagara 38-27. . . Thornton now has seven wins and a shootout loss in his last eight starts. . . Niagara was 0-for-3 on the power play, while the Colts were 0-for-1. . . Jelsma has five goals and 12 points over his last nine games.

Banner image via Terry Wilson/OHL Images

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