On a night the organization paid tribute to the life of Hall of Famer and former head coach Dale Hawerchuk with a special pre-game ceremony, the Barrie Colts followed it up with a disappointing effort on the ice.
Tucker Robertson and Connor Lockhart each recorded three points and Michael Simpson kicked aside all 26 shots he faced to lead the Peterborough Petes to a convincing 5-0 win over the Colts, Saturday night, at Sadlon Arena.
“It was a great tribute night for Dale and obviously he meant a lot to the organization and he means a lot to us,” said Colts assistant Phillip Barski after the club hoisted a special Hawerchuk banner to the rafters in front of members of his family, former Colts players, friends and some 3,662 fans in the stands.
“Unfortunately, we didn’t do what we needed to do to get the two points tonight.”
Robertson, with a pair, Lockhart, Chase Stillman and Jack Van Volsen scored for the Petes (3-1-0-0), who dominated play for most of the game.
In a game that was billed as a good early season test against a Petes team considered among the top teams in the Eastern Conference, the Colts (2-2-0-0) got nowhere near a passing grade.
Simpson was rarely tested and Peterborough, which managed just 20 shots in a 3-1 loss to North Bay on Thursday, fired 38 at Anson Thornton and had numerous scoring chances.
“They just lost two days ago and were ready to bounce back,” said Colts defenceman Josh Kavanagh, who was facing his former team for the first time since an off-season trade. “I don’t think we were mentally ready to match them.”
After scoring 12 goals in its last two games, Barrie could generate little offensively. It seemed every time they had the puck, a maroon jersey was right on them taking away their time and space and forcing them to make quick decisions.
Barski felt the Colts didn’t execute as well as they would have liked to.
“They got some good size on the back end and they play very aggressive on top with their forward group,” he said of the Petes. “Our game plan was to get pucks low to high and then get traffic to the net front, but they did a good job blocking shots.
“They deserve a lot of credit for the way they performed tonight.”
Robertson and Lockhart were their usual dominant selves. Lockhart, who came over in a pre-season trade from Erie, now leads the OHL in scoring with two goals and 10 points. His centre, Robertson, sits tied for second with Sagniaw’s Pavel Mintyukov with nine points.
“Those are two very good players and we were a little slow taking care of them, so that’s on us,” said Kavanagh. “At the end of the day they’re good players, but we got to be better.”
Down 1-0 late in the first period, the Colts appeared to have tied things up when Roenick Jodoin cut into the high slot and slid it across to Zach Wigle for the easy tap-in.
The celebration was short-lived after replays showed Carter Lowe entered the zone ahead of the puck and the play was ruled offside, the goal disallowed.
Minutes later Van Volsen scored on the power play with just 27 seconds remaining in the first and the Petes never looked back.
Kavanagh felt that sequence really changed the game.
“Fully. It would have been 1-1 and a whole different game,” he said. “You never know what’s going to happen, but I think that had a lot to do with the game. Other than that, it wasn’t a very good game from us.”
As disappointing as the loss was, it still couldn’t take away from a long-awaited heartfelt tribute to their former coach who died of cancer a little more than two years ago.
From former captain Michael Webster praising Hawerchuk for being a mentor and Colts owner Howie Campbell revealing how Hawerchuk turned down offers to coach in the NHL, to wife Crystal sharing what the tribute meant to her family and videos from current NHLers Aaron Ekblad, Mark Scheifele and Kevin Labanc, the night was a fitting salute to a man who meant so much to many.
All topped by the raising of a special banner in the east end of the rink to Elvis Presley music that Hawerchuk loved so much.
“To see how much he has done for Barrie and what he did in his career is so inspiring,” said Kavanagh, who despite not playing for Hawerchuk could see how much Hawerchuk meant to his former players and the city.
The Colts will have nearly a full week off before a northern road trip next weekend that starts Friday night in Sudbury and ends Saturday night in Sault Ste. Marie.
“Obviously we’re going to watch the video from this evening. We got to learn how to get our game better,” said Barski. “It was a good test for our group for sure and now we know where we need to be and the level we need to play at to have success at this level.”
ICE CHIPS: Both of Dale’s parents, Ed and Eleanor, sister Dayna, along with oldest son Eric and daughter Alexis were on hand for the ceremony. Former Colts GM Jason Ford and assistant Rob Stewart were also on hand. . . Barrie’s Connor Punnett was ejected from the game after receiving a checking to the head major early in the third. Peterborough’s Artem Guryev was also thrown out after receiving an instigator misconduct for coming to his teammate’s aid. . . Barrie was 0-for-3 on the power play, while Peterborough scored once on four chances.
Banner image via the Barrie Colts