Early deficits in a game are proving no problem for the Barrie Colts to overcome these days.
The Colts made it five wins in their last six games, wiping out a first-period 2-0 deficit en route to taming the Niagara IceDogs 7-4, Friday night, at the Meridian Centre in St. Catharines.
In 13 games this season, Barrie (7-5-1-0) has given up the game’s first goal in 10 of those. Where they once struggled to find a way back earlier in the season, the confident squad has learned to battle its way back.
“We’ve done it a few times were we get down in a game, but we all know if we stick to our game plan, play the right way, in the end we’ll be able to overcome that and get back into the game,” said Colts rookie centre Hunter Haight whose fourth of the year early in the third period proved to be the winner.”
Anthony Tabak led the Barrie attack with a goal and two assists, while Nathan Allensen, Oskar Olausson and Evan Vierling each added a goal and assist.
Matthew Sredl and Nicholas Porco also scored for the Colts who have won three straight, all on the road.
Declan Waddick and Alec Leonard gave the IceDogs (4-9-0-0) the early 2-0 lead.
“After we gave up the first two goals, we didn’t make a lot of mistakes,” Colts head coach Marty Williamson said. “We played a real good game. I thought our puck possession was outstanding and had some really good goals. I was really proud of the guys.
“A little wonky at the start, but after the first four or five shifts I thought we settled into a good hockey game.”
Trialing 2-1 after the opening 20 minutes, the Colts played as dominant a period as they have all season. They scored four straight times and held Niagara to just three shots, though Rodwin Dionicio would cut the lead to 4-3 late in the frame on a power-play goal.
Niagara scored four times on just 10 shots on Barrie goaltender Matthew Sbrocca through two periods.
“I wondered if it was going to be a crazy kind of game again,” Williamson said. “We just stuck to the program. We’d like a couple more saves here and there and hopefully these guys will settle in and give us that, but the offence was rocking and rolling.
“We had good opportunity with our puck possession. I thought our puck possession was outstanding As I said to the guys, that’s as good a period of hockey as I’ve seen, that second and third.”
Haight made it 5-3 just 6:04 into the third when he cut inside a Niagara defender and ripped it over the shoulder of goalie Tucker Tynan.
Pano Fimis got the IceDogs back within one less than two minutes later, but a late goal by Sredl and empty-netter from Allensen sealed the deal.
The Colts never showed any kind of panic when the IceDogs got close twice.
“Nope, we were good on the bench,” Williamson said. “I really think our guys knew we were playing well. Yeah, a couple of pucks in the back of the net on us, but it’s the confidence that I’m liking with this group.
“Even if there’s a mistake out there, we’re going to go back and start playing and get the next one. We just seem very calm and in control.”
Barrie outshot Niagara 23-9 over the final two periods and 26-16 overall.
“That’s what happens when we come together as a team,” Haight said of the Colts play over the final 40 minutes. “We’re playing for each other and playing our systems. That late goal, that’s unfortunate, but we didn’t get down. We just continued to play our game.”
The Colts rookie centre continues to show why he’s one of the top OHL prospects for this year’s NHL Draft.
Haight, who has four goals and eights points this season was dangerous all night, but Williamson has been impressed by the young forward’s play at both ends of the rink.
“He sure did,” Williamson said when asked if Haight showed Friday night why scouts should have an eye on him. “There’s great balance to his game. He always gives me that defensive effort and it’s nice to see him rewarded with some nice goals.
“There’s a couple of weapons there with him and Olausson together, and then (Jacob) Frasca really compliments it too. I’m really liking the looks of that line.”
Haight says he feels more confident and comfortable with every game.
“As the games progress, confidence is definitely building up,” the 17-year-old Strathroy native said. “I’m getting more comfortable out there. That’s just going to keep continuing on through this season and I’m enjoying it.”
The Colts will look to keep their run rolling when they wrap up the weekend at home Saturday night against the Peterborough Petes.
“The schedule has kind of favoured us a little bit too,” Williamson said. “We’ve had a bunch of two-game weekends, we’re not being hit by those three-in-fours, three-in-threes where it gets difficult.
“These are the games that we got to come up and finish off the weekend with a good weekend rather than a .500 weekend.”
Game time at Sadlon Arena is 7:30 p.m.
ICE CHIPS: Brandt Clarke’s five-game goal streak came to an end, though he did earn an assist to run his point streak to six games. . . Artur Cholach (hit to head) missed his fifth-straight game. . . Olausson now has 10 goals in 13 games and is seventh overall, four behind OHL goal-scoring leader Sasha Pastujov of Guelph. . . Sbrocca was making his first start in goal for Barrie in five games. . . . Niagara was 1-for-1 on the power play, while Barrie didn’t score on its lone opportunity.
Banner headline: Barrie Colts rookie Hunter Haight scored the game-winner in a 7-4 win over the Niagara IceDogs, Friday night, at the Meridian Centre.