That’s more like it.
A week after a forgettable season-opening loss at Sadlon Arena, the Barrie Colts looked much more at home Thursday night with a 5-2 win over the Niagara IceDogs.
The Colts looked little like the flat team that generated few chances in the 2-1 loss to the Oshawa Generals and last night more like the club expected to be among the OHL’s top teams this season.
Building off a 6-5 win in Sudbury last Friday, the Colts played with a ton of energy and were rewarded for it in their second game on home ice.
“Obviously it was the first game (last week) and I think everyone was a little nervous, a little tired,” said veteran centre Jacob Frasca, who recorded his second goal and second assist of the season in the win. “We were thinking too much and the last two games we stuck to our game and everyone’s working hard, doing their job and now we’re just having fun with it.
“It’s a good vibe on the bench. The coaches are on to us and we have a good vibe from our coaches to our players, goalies and everyone is just having fun. It’s fun to win, so let’s just keep this thing rolling.”
Boasted by the return of overage forward Evan Vierling from pro camp with the AHL’s Cleveland Monsters, the Colts dominated play for most of the game, out-chancing their Central Division rivals by a large margin and outshooting them, 38-27.
Anson Thornton was solid in recording his first win in goal for Barrie.
“I thought we built on (the energy) from the Sudbury game and had a little more structure,” said Colts head coach Marty Williamson. “If we made mistakes, it didn’t cost us and Thornton did a good job for us back there too.”
A balanced attack once again led the way for Barrie, with five different players finding the back of the net.
Callum Chisholm, with his first as a Colt, Ian Lemieux, Beau Akey, and Cooper Matthews also scored for Barrie (2-1-0-0), which had seven different scorers in their two games last weekend.
Nolan Dann and Rodwin Dionicio replied for the IceDogs (2-1-1-0), who kept it somewhat close thanks in large part to the play of goaltender Josh Rosenzweig.
“I think we have the best depth in the league, for sure. Anyone can score,” said Frasca. “You got (Beau) Jelsma’s line, my line, Vierling’s line, even the fourth line can score.
“Our defencemen are producing and everyone’s getting in on it.
“I think that’s how our coaches want us to play. They want us to play hard and we got our (offensive) zone principals to follow and everyone’s following it. Everyone’s getting their chances, their opportunities and everyone’s burying it.”
The spread-out offence will make it tougher for opposing teams.
“That’s going to be us,” said Williamson. “I think that’s going to be the way it is all year. I do think we got weapons everywhere. If you fall asleep on Roenick Jodoin, Cole Beaudoin, or Zach Wigle, they can chip in. And the big guy Chisholm is scoring some goals for us, so we’re getting some good efforts all the way around.”
Getting their top centre back certainly helps. Vierling was a force all night, recording three assists, and he certainly played like someone ready to have a big year and earn a pro contract.
“I was telling him all game that he was a wizard out there,” said Frasca. “I said, ‘I don’t know if that’s Evan Vierling out there or Patrick Kane.’ After that second period, I went up to him and said, ‘Man, the plays that you are making and the patience you have, it’s unreal.’
“The way he can see the ice and see what’s ahead of him, he’s a wizard out there. He had a good game and he was making good plays, and he’s only going to get better from here.”
Williamson was happy to see his playmaking veteran back.
“And smooth,” he said of Vierling. “He thinks the game a bit quicker and he finds guys very quickly that are open, so it’s great that Evan Vierling is back.”
Chisholm had the lone goal of the first, before Dionicio tied things up just over a minute into the second frame.
Barrie though, as they did all night, responded. Power-play markers by Frasca, 1:07 later, and Akey surrounding a blast from the point by Lemieux put the Colts in control by midway through the second.
Dann gave the IceDogs some life, but a nifty chip-in on a backhand by Matthews less than three minutes later restored the three-goal cushion.
The IceDogs spent much of third period killing penalties and mounted little offensive pressure.
“There’s lots of room for improvement, but again I just like the way we reacted to mistakes,” said Williamson. “The other games we compounded our mistakes. In this game, we just sorted it out a lot better and were a lot calmer.”
The Colts face a much tougher test on Saturday night when they host the Peterborough Petes. One of the favourites in the Eastern Conference, the Petes will be looking to bounce back after a 3-1 loss in North Bay on Thursday.
“That’s what we want to get,” said Williamson of the stern test. “We got a day to prepare (Friday). I think they’re one of the premier teams on our side. They kind of made the statement that they’re all in this year, so it’s a great test for us.”
ICE CHIPS: With Thursday being Women’s Hockey Night at the rink, the Colts paid tribute to Barrie native and Canadian national women’s hockey team member Jessie Eldridge before the game. The forward helped Canada win gold at the 2022 women’s hockey world championship held in Denmark in early September. . . With the return of Vierling, rookie forward Carter Lowe has signed with the Stouffville Spirit of the Ontario Junior Hockey League. . . Barrie was 2-for-7 on the power play, while Niagara was scoreless on its two opportunities. . . Josh Kavanagh, acquired from the Peterborough, drew an assist for his first point as a Colt.
banner image: Terry Wilson/OHL Images