Colts come up short against Spitfires in wild, high-scoring contest

Colts starting goaltender Anson Thornton was pulled at 13:55 of the second after giving up seven goals on 29 shots

The Barrie Colts may have not got the results they wanted this weekend, but they showed they can hang with the OHL’s top teams.

Two nights after falling just short against the OHL-leading Ottawa 67’s, the Colts came out on the wrong end of a wild 8-7 score to the Western Conference-leading Windsor Spitfires, Saturday night, in front of a sold-out Sadlon Arena.

Trailing 7-4 late in the second period on four straight goals by Windsor, three of those from Brett Harrison, the Colts fought back to even things up on goals by Tyler Savard, his second of the game, and Cole Beaudoin late in the second and then an early third-period marker by Braden Haché.

Despite being outshot 13-4 in the third though, it was the Spitfires who would get the decisive goal when Colten Smith’s shot from the left faceoff circle with 9:58 remaining hit Colts defenceman Josh Kavanagh in front and went up and over goalie Ben West for the winner.

Barrie (23-12-4-2) pushed hard late, and despite a pair of excellent chances by Beau Akey and Jacob Frasca, couldn’t get the equalizer.

Despite a tough 4-1 defeat at home Thursday where Ottawa scored three times in the third and then a roller coaster ride against the OHL’s top scoring team on Saturday, the Colts weren’t hanging their heads after the loss.

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“I think what that game tells us is we are right there,” said Haché. “We’re a contending team in this league, we’re a top team in this league and when we’re on our game we’re tough to beat. For us, we got to take the positives from this weekend and that game.

“A couple of bounces, a couple of chances. Just simple breakdowns that we’ll get to here and I think we’ll be ready for when it matters.”

Harrison, who also added a pair of assists for a five-point night, led the attack for Windsor (28-9-3-1), which has now won six straight and nine of its last 10 games.

Anthony Cristoforo, with two goals and two assists for a four-point night, Matthew Maggio and Alex Christopoulos also scored for the Spitfires, who went all-in at the OHL trade deadline with several moves, including the additions of Shane Wright (3A) and Harrison.

Ethan Quick, Ethan Cardwell and Declan McDonnell also scored for the Colts, who got a point from everyone in the lineup with the exception of four players.

“It’s a good sign,” Colts head coach Marty Williamson said of sticking with the powerhouse Spitfires.

Still for a Barrie team that has prided itself on its improved defence, giving up eight goals is never a good recipe for winning hockey games.

“It’s a pretty weird when you get an 8-7 hockey game. I don’t know what to make of it, I just love the grit from the guys of not quitting,” said Williamson. “Especially that little run in the second period where it looked like the game was slipping away and we get the two goals before the end of the period.

“We came out and started the third pretty well, so it was one of those crazy games where you put it behind you. The fact is we’re right there with them. We just got to keep getting a little better at things.”

There’s plenty to learn from in this loss. Like handing the OHL’s second-best power play six chances. Fortunately, Windsor finished with just one goal with the man advantage.

“I thought we took some careless penalties and we got to watch that, because that really hurts you in the playoffs,” added Williamson.”And just be careful that when you extend shifts you just don’t get lazy and those kinds of things. There’s some lessons to be learned, but this was a tough stretch.

“We knew there was six games in 10 days and we went 4-2. We would have liked a little more reward in the end, but the final two games we played well enough.”

Up 4-3 midway through the second, the game appeared like it was getting away from the Colts when the Spitfires, who lead the OHL with 191 goals scored in 41 game, scored four times in a little more than three minutes.

The Colts, though, weren’t about to roll over. They would score three times a little over the next five minutes to draw even.

“That’s what I love about this team. There’s belief on the bench, there’s juice on the bench,” said Haché, who after scoring just once in 36 games with Kingston, now has two goals in six games in Barrie since being acquired at the deadline. “We’re a gritty, hard-nosed team.

“We showed tonight we can play a full 60, so for us we just got to buy into that and when we clean up our defensive zone that full 60 with limited mistakes will result in more wins.”

Barrie almost tied it again late but Joey Constanzo made several big stops down the stretch, including a right pad stop on Frasca on the doorstep in the dying seconds.

“We had some good looks and you can’t ask for much more,” said Williamson. “Akey had a good look and Frasca had a real good look, so that’s all you can ask for. You got to find ways to get it in.

“Yeah the hockey Gods were kind of with (Windsor) on the fluky one that went up and over (West), because I thought we were kind of taking the game to them in the third a bit.”

The Colts saw the weekend as a good test to see how they matched up against the OHL’s best. They were right there, but Williamson says this shows there’s still more to work on.

“They’re (Windsor) the highest-scoring team in the league, so we knew that coming in,” he said. “We really didn’t want to have to score nine to win a hockey game, so we got to get better in some areas in that way for sure. They’re an off-the-rush kind of team and they got some goals that way.

It’s learning. It’s not perfect right now, but we were not too far away from that being a win tonight or the other night against Ottawa.”

After a busy start to the month, the Colts will get a break here before a road swing next weekend that will see them play three times in three nights, kicking off in Kitchener on Friday, then off to Flint on Saturday before wrapping things up Sunday in Saginaw.

Thanks to a pair of losses by North Bay this weekend, the Colts are just eight points behind the Battalion atop the Central Division standings with a game in hand.

“We got to capitalize on that,” Haché said of the Battalion losses. “We’re going on the road and it’s a big weekend for us, so we just got to get to work this week and we got to get big wins this weekend.

“We want home ice, not only in the first round, but when we advance in the second. That’s our goal and we have to buy into that.”

ICE CHIPS: Colts starting goaltender Anson Thornton was pulled at 13:55 of the second after giving up seven goals on 29 shots. West made five of six saves the rest of the way. Costanzo made 31 saves to pick up his 15th win in net for the Spitfires. . . Barrie outshot Windsor 38-35. . . Brandt Clarke had two helpers. . . Alliston native Jacob Holmes had two assists for Windsor. . . It was a Don Mills Flyers 2019 minor midget reunion last night. Clarke, Wright, Thornton and Christopoulos all played for the Flyers’ OHL Cup championship team. . . Attendance Saturday was a season high 4,320. . . Maggio’s goal was his 32nd of the year and tied him with Owen Sound and Orillia native Colby Barlow for the OHL goal scoring lead. . . Akey will leave Monday for British Columbia where he will take part in Wednesday night’s CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game at the Langley Events Centre.

Banner image via Terry Wilson/OHL Images

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