Kitchener spoils homecoming for Akey and Colts
The loss was the third straight for the Colts
A native of Waterloo Region, Beau Akey grew up watching the Rangers play at the Kitchener Memorial Auditorium.
Unfortunately for Akey, and his Barrie Colts teammates, his first official regular season trip back home didn’t go quite the way he hoped for.
“No, obviously not,” said the Barrie defenceman after a disappointing 6-3 loss in front of friends and family. “It’s never fun to lose.”
The loss was the third straight for the Colts (23-13-4-2), who held a 2-1 lead on goals by Akey and captain Brandt Clarke early in the second but couldn’t hang on.
“When we can’t keep our momentum, it kind of sucks and we obviously want to keep momentum for the rest of the game,” said Akey, who had previously played a pair of exhibition games in Kitchener. “We got a little flat and couldn’t keep it.”
The Rangers would reel off five of the next six goals and never really looked back after that.
Reid Valade, with a pair – including an empty-netter – Francesco Arcuri, Francesco Pinelli, Filip Mešár and Danny Zhilkin led attack for Kitchener (19-20-2-0), which has now won three of its last four games.
A Tyler Savard power-play marker on a perfect set up from behind the net by Declan McDonnell, who was making his first return to the Aud after being acquired from Kitchener at the 2021 OHL trade deadline, got the Colts within one late in the second.
The Colts came close to tying it twice early in the third, but were stoned both times by Rangers goalie Marco Costantini. Arcuri then provided the dagger when he was allowed to walk in alone from centre ice on Ben West and beat the Barrie goalie to make it 5-3.
“I just thought we needed to be more cautious in the third period,” said Colts head coach Marty Williamson. “We gave up the breakaway goal, which was (not a good goal). That takes the game to 5-3 and then it just becomes a difficult period because you got to kind of chase it at that point.
“We’re working harder to score goals than we do to defend and that’s causing us problems right now.”
The Colts never really came close after that.
“Obviously not fun to give up a two-on-none,” said Akey, who pinched to keep the puck in and got caught. “It was a bad play on my part, but we needed to push there at the end.”
There were plenty of interesting story lines in this one. While McDonnell played near two seasons with the Rangers, the player whose OHL rights he was traded for had a standout game with Hunter Brzustewicz making a highlight-reel move to set up Pinelli’s second-period goal.
Kitchener coach Chris Dennis was an associate coach last season under Williamson, while Rangers forward and Barrie native Cameron Mercer was facing his hometown team.
Still, the Colts twice had the early lead and couldn’t add to it. Instead of building off the momentum, they allowed the Rangers to take over.
“It’s been a problem giving up goals right after we score goals actually,” said Williamson. “We weren’t bad at times, but we just aren’t playing hard enough defensively. We allowed them too much zone time, kind of rolling around on us and we didn’t have enough guys that could stop things. We were just happy to watch them.
“Some of it is not bad positioning, but there’s still a time where you got to have energy and go separate men from pucks and we didn’t do enough of that.”
The Colts could be without Clarke for Saturday’s contest against the Flint Firebirds after he was clipped by a high stick and had to leave the game in the second period for a brief period.
“A stick came up and caught him right in the face,” said Williamson, who wasn’t happy there was no call and kept flashing four fingers for a four minute double minor he felt the Kitchener player deserved.
“We sent him to go see a dentist right now and hopefully we get him back (Saturday). We’re not sure.”
Williamson said he and the coaching staff will go over went wrong against Kitchener with the players before (tonight’s) contest.
“We’ll show video of things we got to do defensively and get better at,” said the Colts coach, whose club wraps up its three-in-three road trip Sunday night against the Saginaw Spirit.
The good thing, says the Colts coach, is the team won’t have to wait long to atone for this one.
“We’ll get down to Flint and Saginaw and that’s the good thing, you get right back at it,” said Williamson. “We got to get some good leadership in the room and we got to get a win and put an end to the losing streak.”
Game time Saturday night at the Dort Financial Center is 7 p.m.
ICE CHIPS: Akey returned from out west where he suited up in the CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game in Langley, BC on Wednesday night. While his Team Red fell 4-2 to Team White in the game featuring the top ranked junior players for the upcoming 2023 NHL Draft, Akey said it was an experience he won’t soon forget. “It was fun going out west and getting a game in,” he said. “Not only were we treated amazing there, all the guys were great there too.” . . . It was a rough night for Barrie’s top line of Evan Vierling, Ethan Cardwell and Tyler Savard, who were all a minus 3. Akey (minus 4) and Connor Punnett (minus 5) also had tough evenings. . . Kitchener outshot Barrie 30-29. . . These two teams won’t have to wait long to see one another again as the Rangers roll into Barrie on Feb. 11.
Banner image via Terry Wilson / OHL Images