The fireworks started early New Year’s Eve for the Colts and by the time a soldout crowd at Sadlon Arena was getting ready to celebrate the arrival of 2023, Barrie had its most decisive romp of this season.
Evan Vierling and Ethan Cardwell each scored twice and recorded four points, while Anson Thornton turned aside all 38 shots he faced for his first shutout in a Barrie uniform as the Colts rung in the New Year with an 8-0 pounding of the Guelph Storm, Saturday night, in front of 4,132 celebrating fans.
Jacob Frasca and Cardwell scored just 3:28 into the contest and the streaking Colts never looked back en route to extending their point streak to 10 games.
Beau Jelsma, Cole Beaudoin and Tai York also scored for Barrie (17-9-4-2), which has won seven of its last 10 games.
“I think the last little bit we’ve been really good in our structure and it shows out there,” said Vierling, who ran his point streak to eight games (9G, 9A) with another big offensive night. “We’re playing well as a team and we’re taking care of the defensive zone, and it showed that tonight.”
Barrie jumped on Guelph (13-18-3-1) early in this one and never allowed them to get back up.
A night after flying out to a 3-0 first-period lead enroute to a 5-4 overtime win in Owen Sound, the Colts stormed out of the gate to chase Guelph starter Jacob Oster from the net after 20 minutes with five goals on 13 shots.
Oster was replaced by Brayden Gillespie, who stopped 15 of 18 shot the rest of the way.
“I thought the goals (tonight) were more manufactured. We got a couple of breaks off the backboards in Owen Sound,” said Colts head coach Marty Williamson of the difference in the two strong starts.
“The guys are coming ready to play. We’ve done this now 12 or 14 games where we’re dialed into what our jobs are.”
Speaking of dialed in, Barrie’s own dynamic duo of Vierling and Cardwell continue to fill the scoresheet. Despite both missing a handful of games while being away at AHL camps to start the season, the two overage forwards have combined for 35 goals and 84 points.
“We’re just having fun out there,” Vierling said of the special chemistry between the two veterans. “We push each other and we just have fun together. It’s working for us and we just got to keep that going.”
Williamson knows when both elite forwards are on, they can dominate.
“They have the talent to be able to have those kind of nights and that’s what we’re pushing for them, is that consistency,” he said.
Another strong motivating factor is the push to land a pro contract. Vierling wasn’t signed by the New York Rangers while Cardwell is still trying to lock up a deal with the San Jose Sharks.
“That’s what you play for,” said Vierling, of the chance to fulfill that NHL dream. “Obviously, I’m focused on the team first here and trying to keep winning games. Everything else will fall into place for me.”
If Vierling, Cardwell and their teammates are tying to send a message to management that they want the team to add talent ahead of the January 10 OHL Trade Deadline, the recent run is doing a pretty good job of that.
“For sure,” Vierling said of he and his teammates trying to get the team to take a run this season. “I think we have a good team already.”
The Colts could be spurred on to take a run if the Los Angeles Kings do what many expect and return Brandt Clarke to Barrie after the completion of the world junior hockey tournament.
Williamson believes there’s a good chance Barrie gets its captain back.
“I think so,” he said. “We’re only hearing the second hand (info) and a little bit from L.A. There’s definitely a good chance we’re going to see Brandt back. The bottom line is that they want him focusing on the world juniors and then they’ll make that decision on Jan. 6.”
For his part, Williamson admits the club has been in trade discussions with several teams.
“They said it a while ago, that this team believes that we can do some damage and we can win,” he said of taking a run. “We got our nose into a lot of (trade) things. We just got to see how it pans out.”
In the meantime, the Colts coaching staff is making sure they are prepared for what will be a busy second-half schedule.
The months of January and February are packed with three-game weekends, beginning next week when Barrie hosts Ottawa on Thursday and then travels to Mississauga on Friday before wrapping up three-games-in-three nights at home Saturday against Niagara.
“Stay away from suspension, stay away from those kind of things. We’ve done a real good job in staying health in the first half,” said Williamson. “We still have to play a lot of three-in-threes in January and February. We got to play smart (like we did Saturday).”
“I’m very proud of the team in the second and third period. Anson did a good job, but it was probably an easier night with not too many of the highlight reel saves.”
ICE CHIPS: Declan McDonnell continued his December resurgence. The overage forward chipped in with three assists and after recording just five points before, he now has four goals and seven assists for 11 points over his last nine games. “Mac is starting to come,” said Williamson. “This was a guy we knew was a little snake-bitten early and he’s playing really good hockey.”. . . Thornton, who recorded his second career OHL shutout, also got high praise from his coach. “He’s really taken the ball,” Williamson said. “He had a little bit of a three-game spin where he struggled a little bit, but I think he’s been one of the best goalies in the league if not the best goalie.” . . . Roenick Jodoin (upper body) missed his second-straight game. Ben Pickell was called up from Pickering and got into just his second game of the season. “Pickell comes in tonight and plays a good, solid game for us,” said Williamson. . . The Colts held a moment of silence before the game for OPP Const. Grzegorz Pierzchala who was killed in the line of duty earlier this week and Colts 50/50 tickets sales rep Erica Vanclief, who recently passed away.
Banner image via Terry Wilson/OHL Images