Published January 5, 2024

‘Iffy’ Colts come up short in 2-1 loss to Sarnia

Sting pot winner with just over six minutes remaining
‘Iffy’ Colts come up short in loss to Sarnia

The Barrie Colts will likely find themselves a much younger and different team in a few days.

With the OHL trade deadline just days away and the Colts expected to be active sellers, it all may have weighed heavily on the minds of Barrie players who appeared out of sync in a 2-1 loss to the Sarnia Sting, Thursday night, at Sadlon Arena.

The opportunity was there against a lower team in the OHL standings to make up ground on the idle Peterborough Petes for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, but it was the Sting who had a step on the Colts (14-18-1-0) all night.

“We just weren’t real good. I don’t know what it was,” said Colts head coach Marty Williamson, whose club remains five points behind the Petes with two games in hand. “These trade deadlines kind of mess with kids’ heads and that kind of stuff, so I don’t know. We just didn’t seem like ourselves.

“It was a quiet bench; it just didn’t seem as motivated as we have been for the last couple of wins.”

The OHL overage deadline is set for Tuesday, while the overall deadline is noon on Wednesday. The Colts are looking to the future and that likely means trades involving veterans like captain Connor Punnett and Jacob Frasca.

Barrie played a much better defensive game than their earlier 7-6 loss a month ago in Sarnia, but they just didn’t appear to be the same team that defeated a good Owen Sound Attack club 5-2 on New Year’s Eve.

“I thought we were iffy all game,” said Williamson. “I didn’t mind our game, but I just thought we were iffy and then we make a mistake on coverage in the neutral zone, and it cost us.”

Locked at 1-1 entering the third period, the Colts dodged a pair of Sarnia power plays, but with just 6:38 remaining Ryan Brown, the younger brother of former Colt forward Aidan Brown, fired the puck in front to a streaking Cooper Way, who directed it past Ben West for the winner.

It was the third straight win for Sarnia (15-21-1-0), which moved into a tie with the Flint Firebirds for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.

“We found ourselves in the box too many times in the third,” said Colts forward Beau Jelsma. “Both teams played well defensively, and it came down to who was going to make the most mistakes. We did and we didn’t capitalize on our chances, and it bit us in the end.”

Barrie had its chances in this one. Shamar Moses fired through Sarnia goalie Karsen Chartier and off the post in the second and then Moses, who was left all alone behind the Sarnia defence in the third, slid it across to Cole Beaudoin, but Chartier slammed the pads closed to stone Beaudoin.

Barrie was then given a great opportunity to draw even late when Jacob LeBlanc was handed a double minor for high-sticking Jacob Frasca with 5:14 remaining.

Along with pulling their goalie late, the Colts finished the game with the man advantage and despite heavy pressure couldn’t solve Chartier for the equalizer.

“You got to give him credit,” said Williamson of Chartier’s performance. “You have a two-on-none on a goalie, you got to find a way to get that (puck) in between our guys. It’s disappointing. That’s two points that we let slide away.”

Both Chartier and West played well in the crease on this night, but one defensive mistake was the difference.

“For sure, the goalie played well for their team,” said Jelsma. “We had a lot of Grade A chances tonight and we didn’t bury them. Two mistakes and they’re in the back of our net and cost us the game.”

Frasca was cut in the face on the late high stick, and he didn’t return. Williamson said the Colts certainly could have used their veteran in their late push.

“That’s disappointing. On a power play he would have been key for us,” he said of Frasca. “He’s such a good net presence and what he does. We just didn’t get enough (offence) generated.”

Sarnia opened the scoring a little more than three minutes into the game when Nathan Omeri was left all alone in front and buried a backhand deke on West.

Zach Wigle would draw the Colts even a little more than five minutes later on a nice deflection off a Grayson Tiller point shot.

“We got a tough weekend ahead,” said Jelsma, who along with his teammates take on the third-place Knights in London Friday night, before returning home Saturday night to host the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, who sit second overall in the OHL standings. “Obviously, this was a game tonight we would like back. It was a bit of a must-win for us because we’re out of a playoff spot right now and we got a hill to climb, but it’s junior hockey so anything can happen.

“We bring our game in these next two days, I think we can come out with some success.”

Barrie will have to be better than they were Thursday. Especially on the road, where the club has just three wins in 15 games.

“There’s not a lot of easy nights for us anyways,” Williamson said of facing two of the league’s top teams. “We just got to go play and get better. We need better performances.

“I thought our defence played pretty good; I just thought our forwards lacked some jump.”

Game time at Budweiser Gardens tonight is 7 p.m.

ICE CHIPS: Frasca received stitches and should be back in the Barrie lineup on Friday. . . Anson Thornton, who was playing in the AHL with the Tucson Roadrunners, has been returned to Barrie by the Arizona Coyotes. Thornton is still recovering from an injury and was a scratch. . .  Brown, who was the 17th overall pick by the Sting in the 2023 OHL draft, is having a solid rookie season with seven goals and five assists for 12 points in 18 games. . . Shots were 32-30 in favour of Sarnia. . . The Sting were 0-for-4 on the power play, while the Colts finished 0-for-3. . . Barrie dominated faceoffs, 34-15. . . Punnett had his five-game point streak (0 goals, 7 assists) snapped. . . Attendance was 3,754.

banner image: Natalie Shaver/OHL Images

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