The Barrie Colts got the job done early Saturday night.
Coming off a strong effort in a win over the Kingston Frontenacs at home on Thursday, the Colts picked up right where they left off, jumping to a 5-0 first-period lead and never looking back en route to a 5-2 win over the Ottawa 67’s at Sadlon Arena.
The 67’s were coming off a pretty strong effort themselves in a 2-1 shootout loss in Hamilton to the OHL’s top team, but they had little time to react after the Colts jumped all over them.
“Marty (Williamson) was preaching, we know they went to a shootout yesterday. We knew they probably had heavy legs and we got the day off yesterday,” Colts captain Brandt Clarke said of the game plan laid out by his head coach. “We just played the right way and drew a lot of odd-man rushes. Their defence was pinching, and our forwards did a good job of getting behind them and getting chances.
“When we had zone time our forwards got to the net, banged pucks in, so yeah it was a great all-around first period.”
Nathan Allensen, on a beautiful cross-crease set up by Hunter Haight, opened the scoring at 7:57 and less than eight minutes later Oliver Smith had scored twice and Connor Punnett and Evan Virerling added singles to put Barrie (25-18-4-0) in the driver’s seat.
“It was huge,” Williamson said of the early outburst. “Games like this are important. They played a tough game last night, and we wanted to be good right off the bat, and we were. So, I was really happy with the guys.”
Chris Barlas scored midway through the second and Vinzenz Rohrer midway through the third, but Ottawa (23-25-2-4) never really threatened.
The 67’s had just three shots on Mack Guzda in the first and were outshot 26-16.
“They were pretty tired and didn’t want to go up and down the ice, so we focused on getting the puck out and making them have to chase forward and tire them out.” said Clarke. “They didn’t have a lot of quality chances and that’s always a plus.”
Williamson praised Vierling who had another strong effort with a goal and assist after scoring two goals on Thursday.
The centre and his veteran line with Anthony Tabak and Declan McDonnell played a huge roll in Williamson’s attempt to match lines and shut down Ottawa.
“We need good matchups and being at home obviously helped us with where we can get Vierling out there and when we’re short players it’s a real benefit when we’re playing at home that I can pick and choose who I want to go,” he said.
“Hopefully next week when we get everybody back I’m not as concerned about it, but right now we’re getting those veterans out against those top players and they’re playing like veterans and they’re winning battles.”
The win was the second-straight for the Colts who kicked off the weekend with a 4-3 win over the Frontenacs.
The Colts were determined to put last week’s dreadful three losses behind them and now can polish off a great weekend with a win Sunday afternoon in Sudbury.
“That was the focus all week, we wanted to turn it around. We wanted to show we’re still a strong team,” said Clarke. “This was a tough weekend. Kingston is obviously good, Ottawa’s a good structured team and Sudbury has had our number, so hopefully we can continue the win streak (Sunday) and prove that we’re still one of the top teams in our conference.”
With the win over Ottawa and Oshawa’s loss in Peterborough, Barrie was able to jump over both teams into fifth place in the Eastern Conference standings.
The Colts still hold three to six games in hand on most teams in the conference.
“To rebound and start the week like this gives us a really good opportunity to have a six-point weekend,” Williamson said.
“Now we got an early turnaround,” the head coach continued. “Now the shoe is on the other foot and Sudbury is rested, and they get the changes, so it’s going to be a hard-fought game up there.”
The Wolves have won three-straight against Barrie and are currently locked in a battle with Peterborough for the eighth and final playoff spot in the conference.
“It’s a quick turnaround, but we’re up for the challenge,” said Clarke. “We’re going to bring our A-game (Sunday), we want to keep this weekend rolling, we want to keep this win streak going and it’ll give us all the confidence in the world if we can beat a rival tomorrow.”
Game time Sunday at the Sudbury Community Arena is 2:05 p.m.
ICE CHIPS: The 16 shots against were the fewest Barrie’s given up in a game all season. . . The line of Hunter Haight, Beau Jelsma, and Smith were great all night. They combined for two goals and six points and were named the game’s three stars. . . After not scoring in his first 39 games, Punnett now has three goals in the last four games. . . The Colts chased Ottawa starting goalie Max Donoso from the crease at 15:07 of the first after he gave up four goals on 11 shots. Rookie Collin Mackenzie replaced him. . . Colts rookie Zach Wigle, who played with the Oakville Blades on Saturday, will return to the lineup Sunday in Sudbury. . . Colts went 1-for-3 on the power play, while Ottawa was 1-for-2.
feature image Oliver Smith of the Barrie Colts. Photo by Terry Wilson / OHL Images.