Thornton a ‘difference maker’ for Colts in 2-1 win over Sudbury

Barrie's Anson Thornton stopped 44 of 45 shots.

When the Barrie Colts acquired Anson Thornton this offseason, they believed there would be nights like this.

Nights when the Arizona Coyotes goaltending prospect showed why he’s a legit No. 1 starter who could go into opposing buildings and carry them to wins.

Thornton did exactly that and then some Friday night, stopping 44 of 45 shots to lead the Colts to a 2-1 overtime win over the Wolves at Sudbury Community Arena.

Connor Punnett scored the winner 3:55 into the extra frame to seal the deal in a game where Thornton showed exactly why Barrie went out and picked him up from Sarnia.

“We think he’s a difference maker and he sure was tonight,” said Colts head coach Marty Williamson of his prize goalie. “I just saw him battle for everything. He was just so in-tuned to this hockey game. The shot that beat him, it was just a crazy bar and in at a tough angle.

“That’s what it took to beat him. Everything else, he saved for us.”

Joe Ranger was just as good in goal for the Wolves. The former Mississauga Steelheads goalie turned aside 38 shots and was especially good in the third when Sudbury spent the early part of the period killing penalties.

A power-play marker early in the third by Evan Vierling, with Sudbury two-men short, appeared as though it would be enough on this night

Seattle Kraken prospect David Goyette made sure it wasn’t, potting his sixth in as many games this season with the Wolves on a two-man advantage with just 2:28 remaining.

The Colts would spend most of the remainder of the third and overtime killing penalties, but still found a way to pull out the win.

“That’s kind of what we talked about. Sometimes it’s 6-5. Sometimes it’s 1-0,” said Williamson of finding a way to get the win. “I’m a little disappointed we weren’t able to execute on our power play and get it done. (The guys) had some chances, but we just didn’t get the extra goals and then you kind of know in this league you’re going to take the penalties coming back and we did that.

“It was just a great performance from our defence blocking shots, our goaltender making saves. (Jacob) Frasca did a fantastic job on the end boards on the kill. Some real good efforts to get it done.”

After taking two late penalties in the third, Punnett would more than make up for them when he finished off a four-on-two.

“It’s funny how you see that sometimes,” Williamson said of veteran defenceman stepping up after his time in the box.

The overtime winner was set up by Ethan Cardwell, who was making his OHL season debut after being sent down by the San Jose Sharks’ AHL affiliate in San Jose.

“It was a real nice pass by Cardwell,” said Williamson. “I thought he made a great play on a delay at the blue line and not panic and then Punnett got into the rush and we were finally able to get a puck on net.

“We missed a bunch of times and we finally get a puck on net to put in.”

The game also marked the OHL debut for Kashawn Aitcheson. Barrie’s third-round pick (50th overall) had two shots and an even plus/minus while playing alongside Grayson Tiller on the blue line.

The Wolves would reel off seven-straight penalties starting late in the second period. Still, the Colts could only score on a two-man advantage just 24 seconds into third and failed to add to their lead on ensuing power plays.

It was a big win on the road for a Barrie team coming off a disappointing 5-0 loss at home to Peterborough last week.

The Colts will wrap up their northern weekend road trip Saturday night when they take on the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds.

“It’s huge win for us,” said Williamson. “We’ve been finding ways to lose games like that and we found a way to win one, so I’m proud of the guys. Now we got to move on and finish this weekend.”

Game time at GFL Memorial Gardens is 7:07 p.m.

ICE CHIPS: With Cardwell’s return the Colts now have four overagers and Ian Lemieux sat to get down to the maximum three allowed in the lineup. With the defenceman out, Aitcheson was able to make his first appearance in a Barrie uniform. . . Barrie was 1-for-6 on the power play, Sudbury 1-for-7. . . Punnett’s OT winner was the only shot in overtime for the Colts. . . Two of Barrie’s three wins this season have come in Sudbury.

Banner image via Terry Wilson/OHL

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