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Reeling Colts make no excuses after 6-1 loss to Battalion

'Guys just can't seem to find their legs or their energy to sustain battles and win battles'

Injuries, illness and a gruelling schedule have taken a real toll on the Barrie Colts of late.

Even then, the reeling OHL club isn’t looking for a crutch to explain its struggles.

A night after taking it on the chin 9-3 in Kingston, the Colts were no match for a North Bay Battalion team fresh off clinching the Central Division title and dropped their fourth straight in a 6-1 loss, Saturday night, at Sadlon Arena.

A rash of suspensions, injuries and illness have decimated the Barrie lineup throughout the second half of this season. Combine that with a crazy busy schedule of makeup games thanks to COVID-19 and the clearly fatigued club has found itself limping down the stretch drive of this season.

“Obviously it’s not ideal playing this many games back-to-back and all the road trips, but it’s no excuse,” Colts assistant captain Nathan Allensen said after Saturday’s loss. “This is the OHL, where would you rather be? There’s kids dying to play in this league and we can’t take it for granted. We didn’t play last year and I think every game is an opportunity to show what we got and we just got to get back to doing what we do the best.

“Coming into the playoffs here, get back to the simple game we played and I think we’ll be alright.”

Barrie native Mitchell Russell, playing in what could be his final OHL game in Barrie, scored twice as did Matvey Petrov to lead North Bay (41-18-3-3) to its sixth-straight win and ninth in the last 10 games.

Nikita Tarasevich and Owen Outwater also scored for the Troops, who put the game away with four second-period markers.

It marked the second night in a row that Barrie (33-24-6-1) fell apart in the middle frame.

The Frontenacs also blew open last night’s romp with four goals in the second, resulting in rough back-to-back nights for the Colts.

“We got beat at five-on-five hockey,” said Colts head coach Marty Williamson, whose club killed off all five North Bay power plays. “It was basically a 6-0 game. We scored one power-play goal.

“We’re fighting it right now. Guys just can’t seem to find their legs or their energy to sustain battles and win battles and turn the balance of the game to our favour rather than a 50/50 game or a one-sided game.”

Still, Williamson knows his club has to find a way through the adversity.

“It’s hard. It gets frustrating, but we had, I think, a good enough lineup to not have a 6-1 hockey game tonight,” he said. “So, that’s what we got to fight through. Give ourselves an opportunity to win hockey games and keep it close, and help our goaltender out and do those kind of things.

“It just seems we’re struggling with that right now.”

 Beau Jelsma’s power-play marker and team-leading 27th goal of the season midway through the first tied the game at 1-1, but it was game over in the second.

The Colts played much better in a scoreless third.

“We wanted to build on something,” said Williamson.
“We’re right back at it (Sunday). We’re here at 8 a.m. in the morning to hop on a bus to go to Peterborough, so we wanted to build on something.

“I am happy with the guys that they gave it an effort in the third period. It’s something we can take a step forward with.”

Allensen knows he and his teammates are much better than the team that took back-to-back poundings the last two nights.

Getting starting goalie Mack Guzda, sniper Ethan Cardwell and veteran forwards Jacob Frasca and Ryan Del Monte, along with rookie Kevin Niedenz, back in the lineup before the playoffs would go a long way in helping out.

“For sure we can compete with anyone in the Ontario Hockey League as a whole, not just our conference,” said Allensen. “I think we kind of got away from our game here. Some guys are in and out of the lineup, but I think we’re going to find our game here at the right time and go into the playoffs strong.”

“We can’t do anything about those loses,” added the overage defenceman. “We just got to keep our heads high, keep positive. Obviously, we’ve clinched, so we just got to prepare for the next journey and hopefully go into the playoffs on a high note here.”

With Kingston’s 7-5 defeat of Mississauga on Saturday afternoon, it’s now determined the Colts will face the Steelheads in the opening round of the playoffs.

Getting some wins in the last four games over the next week would be a huge boost of confidence for the struggling club.

“I don’t think we want to go in on a big losing streak and all of a sudden have to play Mississauga and think the switch is going to flip, so we want to see some positive results,” said Williamson. “Hopefully we can get some guys back in the lineup next week and kind of build off that and get feeling good about ourselves going into the playoffs.”

Sunday afternoon’s contest in Peterborough wraps up a busy three-in-three weekend for the Colts. Game time is 2 p.m.

ICE CHIPS: The Colts held a special pre-game ceremony before the contest to honour player billets. . . A Barrie loss in any of its remaining four games or a Mississauga win in its final game will clinch home ice advantage in the first-round for the Steelheads. . . Peterborough wrapped up the last playoff spot in the Eastern Conference with a 5-1 win over Niagara Saturday night, eliminating the Sudbury Wolves. . . Russell’s two goals helped him reach the 40-goal mark for the first time in his OHL career. The Barrie native has points in 13 of his last 14 games (11-10-21).

Feature image via Josh Kim

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