Clarke spearheads Colts comeback win in overtime over Sudbury
Has 24 points in 12 games since his return to the club
Barrie Colts veteran Ethan Cardwell knows well that when teammate Brandt Clarke has the puck on his stick, one always has to be ready.
Cardwell took a perfect cross-ice pass from the Los Angles King’s top prospect on the left side and hammered it home to give the Colts a thrilling 2-1 come-from-behind overtime win over the Wolves, Sunday afternoon, at Sudbury Community Arena.
Clarke, who assisted on both Barrie goals and has a scintillating 24 points in just 12 games (10G, 14A), continued his dominance since being sent back by the Kings in mid-January, and his setup on Cardwell’s game-winner was nothing short of impressive.
With the Colts on the power play, the captain gloved a failed clearing attempt, stepped around Sudbury’s Dylan Robinson at the point and moved to his right before sending a cross-slot laser the other way to Cardwell.
Locked and loaded, the overager would one-timed the feed short-side past the blocker side of helpless Sudbury goalie Nate Krawchuk for the decisive goal at 3:39 of overtime.
“Obviously any time a guy like Brandt Clarke gets the puck you got to just kind of be ready to shoot,” said Cardwell, who leads all Colts with 26 goals. “He draws everyone to him on the ice and it frees up a lot of room for me.
“I was fortunate to be on the right side of the puck there and lucky enough to put it in.”
Wrapping up another three-in-three weekend, Barrie (27-13-5-2) would trail most of the contest after Chase Coughlan put Sudbury (19-21-5-2) on top just 7:50 into the opening period.
The Colts would finally even things up just under eight minutes into the third on the power play when Clarke’s low point shot was deflected by Jacob Frasca past Krawchuk.
“We went to the room before the game and coach (Phil Barski) just kind of told them good teams will find a way to win,” said assistant coach Dylan Smoskowitz, who along with Barski ran things behind the bench with head coach Marty Williamson feeling under the weather. “We stuck with the program, kind of let them make mistakes and we were just going to stick to our structure on what we work on and what we do best.
“We stayed out of the box, forced them to take penalties and at the end of the game we capitalized on our opportunities.”
The Wolves kept one of the OHL’s top power plays in check early, but it came through when Barrie needed it the most on Frasca and Cardwell’s goals.
Barrie would finish the game 2-for-6 with the man advantage.
“We just got to stay patient in games like that,” said Cardwell. “We were real tired on the road in the back half of a three-in-three. We know if we just kind of play our way we’ll get the job done and come out with two points.
“We just stayed patient, trusted what we do and ran our systems and things unfolded in the proper direction for us.”
The Wolves dominated the first period, outshooting Barrie 18-9, but another strong effort by goaltender Anson Thornton kept things close and allowed his teammates to rally.
Thornton would stop 38 of 39 shots he faced to collect his 19th win of the season, fourth among all OHL goalies.
“You have to give a ton of credit to Thornton,” said Cardwell. “He was just a brick wall back there for us and it gives us a lot of confidence to go out there and play our game when we know we got him backstopping us.
“It feels good. Our (team) defence has come a long way since the start of the season and we’re just trying to get better at that. If we limit the scoring chances against, we have a chance to win every night.”
The Colts collected five out six points this weekend. Smoskowitz was happy to see his team not settle after a busy weekend.
“(Williamson) says it all the time that it’s very easy to be average and average is coming to Sudbury in three-in-three and be happy losing by one or keeping it close, but good teams find a way and we’re not an average team or we at least try very hard to be better than average and we showed it today.
“We stuck with it, supported each other on the bench and understood what the game plan was and sticking with it to the very end. We got the result we wanted, so we’re very happy with the weekend.”
Barrie now leads Peterborough by eight points in the Eastern Conference standings and remains nine points behind the North Bay Battalion atop the Central Division standings with two games in hand.
Tracking down the Battalion with 21 games remaining in the regular season won’t be easy, but Cardwell says he and his teammates are focused on taking care of what they can, and that’s winning their own games.
“Obviously that’s one of our main goals here. We want to win as many hockey games as we can,” the San Jose Sharks prospect said of winning a division title. “Every night we go in there with the same mindset that we want to come out with two points. I don’t know if we’re really tracking anyone down or worried about anyone else.
“I think it’s just a personal goal that every night we go out there and work hard and try to win games and we’re going to let the chips fall where they may at the end of the season and gear up for a big playoff run.”
ICE CHIPS: The Colts have now won five of six games against the Wolves with all but one decided by a goal. Three of those have gone into overtime. The two teams face each two more times in Barrie this season. “I think it’s just the rivalry,” Smoskowitz said of the tight games. “We play each other so many times, that we know each other very well. So, it’s hard to find any holes that any team exposed because of so many times that we’ve played them. It’s a long bus ride either way and makes it harder on the away team, but Sudbury always give us a good game and we’re just happy on this particular Sunday we came out on top.” . . . Frasca’s goal was his 20th. The veteran got into just 30 games last season after battling concussion issues and he’s found his stride this season with 49 points in 47 games. . . The Wolves were missing leading scorer David Goyette (30-31-61). The Seattle Kraken prospect was serving his last game of a four-game suspension.
images: Terry Wilson/OHL Images