Peterborough Petes’ goaltender Michael Simpson did a number on the Barrie Colts the first two times he faced them this season.
The third time Tuesday night was definitely no charm either for Barrie.
Simpson, who was the difference in two wins earlier this season, was even better on this night, stopping all 37 shots he faced before Tucker Robertson scored 1:19 into overtime to lead the Petes to a 1-0 win over the Colts at Sadlon Arena.
The win helped the Petes (26-33-5-1) keep pace with Sudbury, who doubled up Niagara 6-3 last night and stay five points ahead of the Wolves in the race for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
The single overtime point moved Barrie (33-22-6-1) to within six points of the Mississauga Steelheads and Kingston Frontenacs in the battle for home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs.
Simpson was outstanding in this one, especially early on when the Petes were outshot 17-5 in the first and then 10-6 in the second.
He robbed Brandt Clarke on the doorstep off a cross-crease pass in the first period, and then midway through the second he dove headfirst across the crease to stone Declan McDonnell on a two-on-one.
“Crazy game,” said Colts head coach Marty Williamson. “Teams should trade for (Simpson) when they’re playing us. He’s done a good job against us. Made a lot of big saves and it’s just tough to win games when you don’t score goals. “They seem to be hard to come by for us in the last little stretch.”
The shutout was the first for the Petes rookie who has been a thorn in Barrie’s side all season. He made 35 saves in an impressive performance in a 5-4 overtime win in Barrie back on Nov. 13.
Simpson then kicked aside 33 shots to help the Petes stave off the Colts in a 4-3 win in Peterborough on Feb. 21.
That’s 105 saves in three games.
“He was really good tonight,” said veteran centre Evan Vierling, who returned to the lineup after missing Barrie’s last five games (illness). “He made the stops when he needed to. A couple of big stops that switched the momentum, but we have to find a way to bury those.”
Simpson kept the Petes in the contest until the third when a Colts team amidst a heavy schedule of make-up games began to show fatigue.
A couple of big stops by goaltender Matteo Lalama kept the game scoreless. Barrie had plenty of scoring opportunities in this one, even in the third, but few of those came off second and third chances.
“There were a couple,” said Williamson. “That’s one of the things we got to get better at going into the playoffs, is finding pucks and hunting them down around the net, and just making things happen when they’re not giving you a lot.”
After some early Barrie pressure, it would be the Petes that broke through in overtime.
Tucker Robertson raced in with J.R. Avon and the Petes’ leading scorer cut inside before floating a puck that appeared to hit Clarke and fly past Lalama while Avon crossed in front for the winner.
It was Robertson’s second OT winner against Barrie this season.
“It’s just a bad break,” said Williamson. “We had one just before that when Vierling went to the front of the net on the back-door play. That’s what happens when it gets to three-on-three.
“I thought we didn’t get rewarded. That power play hurt us that we had in the third. That’s where you got to really make a team pay. They shot it over the glass and we really didn’t generate a ton on the power play.”
It’s been a busy stretch for Barrie. They played four times in the last six days and complete the regular season schedule with nine games in 16 days this month.
“There’s definitely some fatigue,” said Vierling. “I know the guys have been playing a lot of hockey. There’s guys that are sick. We’re kind of going through some sicknesses in the room, but we don’t have excuses in the room.
“We just got to keep playing and I think we’re going to get to the point where we’re playing our best hockey before the playoffs.”
While the Colts will get a couple of days off before their next game, things don’t get much easier.
A crazy weekend will see them travel to Kingston on Friday, return home to host North Bay on Saturday, and then hit the road at 9 a.m. on Sunday morning for an afternoon tilt in Peterborough.
All this with a shorthanded lineup.
While Barrie did get Vierling and Oliver Smith back, Hunter Haight was the latest to be sidelined. He joins goaltender Mack Guzda, Jacob Frasca, and Ryan Del Monte on the sick/injured list.
“We still got a lot of guys out of our lineup, including Haight now,” said Williamson. “Those guys hadn’t played. Smitty had been sick, Vierling had been sick and we put them into this game.
“It’s tough to have all your legs, there’s going to be some lulls. The third period I didn’t think we were quite as good, but still had chances.”
Game time Friday in Kingston is 7 p.m.
ICE CHIPS: Williamson believes Haight should return Friday in Kingston and said “we got a shot” at getting Frasca back as well. . . While Lalama wasn’t overly busy, facing just 19 shots, he did make a couple of big stops. “He did his job,” said Williamson. “It’s tough for a goalie when they’re not going in the other way and you got to be perfect.” . . . Vierling said he felt stronger as the game went on. “The first period I just tried to get my legs under me and keep my game simple,” the N.Y. Rangers prospect said. “My linemates were helping, so it was pretty smooth coming back”. . . Rookie defenceman Beau Akey was presented the Gord Bones Memorial Trophy as the Most Improved Player. The award is voted on by the coaching staff.
feature image of Petes goaltender Michael Simpson via Robert Lefebvre/OHL images