Riding a 12-game losing streak on the road, Friday night’s visit by the Barrie Colts to the Dort Financial Center could not have come at a better time.
Undefeated there since the host Flint Firebirds first joined the OHL in 2015, the Michigan stop has been a home away from home for Barrie over the years.
Make it a perfect seven for seven in Flint after Cole Beaudoin fired home the winner on the power play with just 1:36 remaining to lead the Colts to a 4-2 victory and hand them their first taste of success on the road since Nov. 10.
“It’s really huge for our group,” Beaudoin said of snapping the lengthy road skid. “We have been struggling on the road, so a big road trip here and to get a big win here against Flint is huge. We are battling for a playoff spot, and it was a really tight game, so it was really good for our group.”
Most importantly, the win moves Barrie (19-24-2-0) three points ahead of the Peterborough Petes in the race for the eighth and final playoff berth in the Eastern Conference.
The Colts also now find themselves just three points behind Kingston Frontenacs.
“No doubt (it feels good),” Colts general manager and head coach Marty Williamson said of finally ending the road skid. “It was two teams battling to get into the playoffs and, as I said to the guys, these are points that we want.
“We do not get a lot of games where we are not an underdog and this is a game, even though we’re in their building, we needed to win it and we pulled it out.”
The Colts’ success in Flint was something Williamson decided to keep from his young club.
“I was going to say something to the guys, and I did not want to jinx it,” Williamson said before adding a chuckle.
With the game tied at 2-2 late in the third period, Flint (19-24-2-1) appeared to catch a huge break when Thomas Stewart was hauled to the penalty box for kneeing.
Facing a Barrie penalty kill unit that ranks dead last in the OHL, the Firebirds could not capitalize.
Then with just five seconds remaining in the man advantage, Flint was called for too many men. The Barrie power play, not much better at 18th overall, would also come through.
Defenceman Gavin Ewles turned the puck over in his own end to Beaudoin, who moved into the middle of the ice and wired a shot past goaltender Nathan Day.
Riley Patterson, who leads all rookies with 17 goals, fired one into the empty net right at the buzzer to seal the win.
“It kind of popped right out to me,” Beaudoin said of the winner, that along with an assist helped extend his point streak to eight games (5G, 5A). “I saw Patterson there and I thought they were going to expect the (pass for the) one-timer. I shot it and it went low glove, so I was lucky enough to score that one.
“If I would have missed, it would have been on me not giving Patterson the one-timer. So, I am lucky that one went in.”
The Colts have struggled on specialty teams for most of the season, but they came through in a big way when they needed it most late. Barrie finished 1-for-4 with the man advantage, while Flint went 1-for-2.
“We sure did,” Williamson said of both specialty units coming through in the end. “I thought we did a good job. Even the first penalty kill, I think West would have loved to play that a little bit differently. I thought our guys had pretty good structure.
“We have spent a lot of time on it, so we are trying to get better, and it was nice to see the power play get us one too.”
In the middle of a six-game road swing, the Colts now have three out of possible four points in their last two games after a 7-6 overtime loss in Owen Sound on Wednesday night.
Barrie continues the road swing in Michigan on Saturday night when they take on the Memorial Cup host Saginaw Spirit.
“They are huge,” Williamson said of the three points on the road. “We are trying to set ourselves up where we are trying to make the playoffs and have some success, and we are starting to chip away at some things we are starting to get a little better at, but we still got a lot of work ahead of us.
“Obviously we are going into a juggernaut tomorrow, so that will be a great test.”
Oliver Peer scored his first of two on the night midway through the first period, before Thomas Stewart evened it with a shot through traffic with just 40 seconds remaining in the same frame.
The fourth line of Jaiden Newton, Shamar Moses and Carter Lowe put the Colts on top at 12:23 of the second when Moses tipped in a point shot by Jack Brauti.
“I thought we got some good shifts out of our fourth line and we needed it,” said Williamson. “They did a good job and they pinched in with a goal. That is a real good game for those guys.”
The points were vital, and Williamson could see that in the effort put out by both teams. Flint is also fighting for its playoff lives and sits tied with Sarnia for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
“There wasn’t a big crowd here, but you could see the emotions on the players,” said the Barrie coach. “Both teams wanted this and we’re in their building with line changes and that kind of stuff, and our guys fought through it.”
Game time Saturday at the Dow Event Center is 7:05 p.m.
ICE CHIPS: Ben West was named first star after turning aside 31 shots, including a huge stop on breakaway just after a Barrie power play and the game tied 2-2 late in the second. “We talk about all the little things and that was a huge save for us,” said Williamson. “That really kept things going.” . . . Tonight’s contest in Saginaw will be the first time Braden Haché faces his old Barrie teammates since the late summer trade. It will also mark the first time Colts’ winger Bode Stewart faces his old club. . . Williamson was not surprised to see Beaudoin come up big late. “(Cole) just pushes himself and pushes himself,” he said. “He demands excellence and I think it is infectious with the guys around him. He is dragging Patterson. Patterson’s game is really starting to elevate, but part of the reason is (Cole) demands it. If you want to play on his line, you better play well and play hard, and make plays.” Patterson has points in seven of his last eight games (5G, 8A).
Banner image via the Barrie Colts – Ben West turned aside 31 shots and was named the game’s first star after the Barrie Colts defeated the Flint Firebirds 4-2, Friday night, at the Dort Financial Center.