Jason Willms admits he was exhausted, but his last gasp effort has the Barrie Colts back on track.
The Colts Captain found just enough left in the tank to tap in a perfect set up from teammate Aidan Brown for the overtime winner and help Barrie snap a three-game losing skid with a 4-3 come-from-behind victory over the Hamilton Bulldogs, Saturday night, at Sadlon Arena.
Just 26 seconds after the Colts thought they had the winning goal only to have it called back on goalie interference, Nathan Allensen stepped over the blue line and slid the puck to a streaking Brown and the feisty winger found Willms all alone in front for the easy tap-in past Hamilton goaltender Marco Costantini at 3:34 of the extra frame.
“I was kind of short of breath there,” admitted Willms, who immediately flipped his helmet up on his head and pointed upward in relief after his second goal of the game clinched the win. “I kind of just put my head down and was kind of lucky it went in, otherwise I didn’t have much coming back.
“Definitely those are the ones you live for, the backdoor tap-ins. It’s not much easier there.”
Nothing else was easy for the Colts (13-8-1-1) on this night. Trailing 3-2 and looking for their first win against a feisty Bulldogs team that had won the first two meetings between the clubs this season, the home side poured it on third.
They finally broke through just past the midway point of the period on the power play. Allensen teed up Tyson Foerster just inside the left face-off circle and the Colts leading scorer blasted his 16th of the season to even things up.
“(Goalie Arthurs Silovs) made saves when he had to, but we kept coming and were relentless,” said Colts head coach Warren Rychel, whose club outshot Hamilton 14-5 in the third and 50-35 overall. “We kept pouring stuff at the net and I really liked the response here in the third period.
“It was an outstanding game and, to a man, everyone on our team was very good. Young guys, old guys, everyone played well.”
Brown had the other Barrie goal, while Logan Morrison, just 25 seconds into the game, Avery Hayes and Navrin Mutter replied for Hamilton (12-14-2-0).
Fresh off a tough 3-2 overtime loss on the road Friday night against the rival Sudbury Wolves, the Colts had to overcome a good deal of adversity in this one along with the disallowed overtime goal. Some questionable calls had them fuming, including a high-sticking minor on Matej Pekar in the second where it was actually a puck that came up and hit Hamilton’s Jan Jenik in the face and not Pekar’s stick.
Still the Colts battled through it and, for Willms, that determination to fight back says a lot about the character in the dressing room.
“(Friday night) was tough to lose in overtime, especially with what it meant standings wise, but I think we did an excellent job there,” explained the overager, who had his third two-point effort in the last six games. “We were down one in the third and to get that big goal there by Foerster, who has been big for us all year, and to stick it with through that no-goal call and come out here with a win is definitely something we can build on going forward.”
With forwards Ryan Suzuki (eye) and Jacob Frasca (mono) out of the lineup, a shorthanded Colts team also managed to keep OHL scoring leaders Arthur Kaliyev and Jenik in check, while also killing off five Hamilton power plays, including a full two-minute two-man advantage early in the second period.
“The guys really beared down,” Rychel said. “We only had 10 forwards out there. The guys good, they deserve it. We had three out of four points (this weekend), that’s pretty good.”
The Colts return to action Thursday night when they host the Flint Firebirds, before hitting the road for a Friday night tilt against the Guelph Storm and a rematch with the Wolves on a Sudbury Saturday night.
Getting through the adversity tonight should help with a tough schedule ahead next weekend.
“You got to have a short memory in this league,” Willms said. “Whether it’s a win or a loss or if it’s a bad play and you’re frustrated as a team, you have to have a short memory. We would have liked for that one (Pekar in overtime) to go in, but you still got a hockey game to win and we did that.”