Fresh off a 9-2 drubbing in Sudbury, the London Knights were looking for some redemption and a shorthanded Barrie Colts team could do little to stand in their way of getting it on Saturday night.
Kasper Halttunen fired his first career hat trick and finished with four points and Rusian Gazizov scored twice and added an assist as the Knights scored seven times in the second period en route to a 9-3 romp over the Colts in front of a packed crowd of 4,211 at Sadlon Arena.
The loss snapped a five-game, five-year losing skid for London (15-8-0-1) in Barrie and helped atone for a rare thrashing to the Wolves a night earlier.
Easton Cowan and Grayson Tiller traded goals in the first period, but a power-play goal by Halttunen just 3:11 into the second period cued the offensive outburst as the Knights took control with three goals a little under five minutes apart.
Kashawn Aitcheson cut the lead to 4-2 just 11 seconds later, but London responded with another four goals in the middle frame to put this one on ice.
“I wasn’t too unhappy with our first period,” said Colts head coach Marty Williamson, whose club was playing with only five defencemen, including two rookies. “I thought we battled pretty well. It was a fairly even period and we even had a few more scoring chances than they did, but we had too many mistakes in the second period.
Two bad line changes, two power-play goals. Two goals we got stripped on. We gave up odd-man rushes. They’re just too good a team to do that. We let the period get away from us. Give the guys credit, I thought we came back out and held our heads (up) in the third period and played a solid period.”
Jacob Julien and Cowan each had a goal and two assists, while Henry Brzustewicz and Kaeden Johnston also scored for the Knights who had three power-play goals and outshot Barrie 53-38.
Nolan Newton, with his first OHL goal late in the third, also scored for the Colts (10-11), who outshot London 16-15 and outchanced them in the opening period.
“We came out in the second the same way, but we were short on bodies and guys get tired and mistakes happen when you’re too tired,” said Aitcheson, who lugged a ton of ice time with a short blueline. “I guess that was the story of the second period.”
Starting Barrie goalie Sam Hildebrandt was chased after giving up eight goals on 35 shots over two periods and replaced by Ben West, but one could hardly fault the young goaltender who was among the top goalies in goals against average and save percentage coming into last night’s game.
“It was hard,” Williamson said of watching his young goalie give up eight goals. “I really couldn’t fault him on much. He was hung out to dry there, so I was hoping he could get through the period. I didn’t kind of want to pull him with the crowd and that stuff, but unfortunately, they added a couple of more than I thought they were going to.”
Williamson said the drubbing in the second wasn’t from a lack of effort by his young club. For the coach, it was just a matter of young and old players making mistakes and a good team like London capitalizing on them.
“It’s not one of those games that you’re so disappointed in the group to some extent. I did see some bright spots out there,” the coach said of a rugged affair that featured three fights. “I thought both the Newtons (Nolan and Jaiden) played really well for us. I thought (Carter) Lowe gave us quality time in a big game like that. Then from the young group, they’re just trying to hang on. Two of them got into fights, so there’s a lot of positives even though it looks like a bleak night when you look at the scoresheet.
“These are the nights we’re going to go through sometimes just getting this team ready, for what we believe, will be a championship team down the road.”
Aitcheson believes he and his teammates can learn from this and move forward.
“That’s a real good team over there and we got to get back to what we know,” he said. “Look at the video and see what we did wrong and just keep getting better with this team as a group.”
It was a tough night all around for the Colts who had another two players go on the injury list.
Forward Bode Stewart missed the game and will be out at least two weeks after suffering an AC (acromioclavicular) strain in the loss to Owen Sound on Thursday.
The injury of the joint targets the area where the shoulder blade (scapula) meets the collarbone (clavicle). The injury typically takes place in the form of a sprain, forcing the tendon apart by some type of blunt force trauma.
“It’s not as bad as we thought,” said Williamson. “The good part of it is that it doesn’t seem to be a fracture or anything. It’s just a slight AC strain, so he’s seven to 14 days depending on how quickly he heals.”
The Colts also had import forward Eduard Sale leave Saturday’s contest with an unspecified injury.
“Sale left the game there in the second period and we got to kind of see what’s wrong with him and whether we’re going to get him back,” said Williamson.
Forward Jacob Frasca (hip) is still at least a couple of weeks away and blueliner Olivier Savard is still in concussion protocol.
“We just got to see how (Savard) feels on Monday and go through it there,” added the Colts coach.
Beau Akey (shoulder) is out for the remainder of the season, while fellow blue liner Jack Brauti served his first of a two-game suspension last night.
“It’s a tough way to go with the MASH unit here,” said Williamson.
The Colts will have some time to rest up as they get set to kick off another three-in-three weekend beginning Thursday night when they host the Windsor Spitfires.
They hit the road for the other two games, with stops in Sudbury on Friday and Sault Ste. Marie on Saturday.
“We got Windsor coming in here and they’re really a good offensive team and they’re struggling defensively right now,” said Williamson. “They’ll give us a challenge, especially with our blueline the way it is. We need to play solidly defensively.
“This group will rebound well. I’m positive we’ll have some good practices and kind of get ourselves refocused for a tough three-in-three weekend.”
Game time Thursday is 7 p.m.
ICE CHIPS: The Colts may have not won on the scoreboard, but they certainly got the W in two of three fights. Connor Punnett rocked London’s Evan Van Gorp with one of the better open-ice hits in recent years and then proceeded to hammer on Max McCue after the Knights forward came to the aid of his teammate. London tried all night to draw the shorthanded blueline into altercations and Aitcheson tried to avoid one, but had no choice when Ryder Boulton came after him. “I was definitely trying to avoid that,” said Aitcheson of the first-period fight. “Stuff happens in a game and I kind of had to step up for that.” Shamar Moses then came to the aid of a teammate after Alec Leonard threw his left knee out. The rookie delivered several haymakers in a decisive win. . . Jaiden Newton drew an assist on Nolan Newton’s first OHL goal for his first OHL point. . . Michael Simpson made 35 saves to earn his 11th win in 17 appearances. . . West stopped 17 of the 18 shots he faced in the third.
Banner image via Josh Kim/Barrie Colts – Barrie’s Connor Punnett squares off with London’s Max McCue in a first-period fight on Saturday night at Sadlon Arena.