Published April 3, 2023

Colts drop first of playoffs in Hamilton, could be without star captain for next game

Clarke tossed from game after kneeing major
Colts drop first of playoffs in Hamilton, could be without star captain for next game

The Barrie Colts dropped Game 3 of their Eastern Conference quarter-final series 6-3 to the Hamilton Bulldogs on Sunday night, but they may have suffered an even bigger blow.

The Colts could find themselves without captain Brandt Clarke - who leads all OHL players in playoff scoring with three goals and 11 points - for Game 4 on Tuesday night and beyond after he was handed a five-minute kneeing major and game misconduct late in the second period.

The Colts' captain had his left leg out when he collided with Lawson Sherk just inside the Hamilton blueline. Sherk would leave the game for a short bit, before returning to score and finish the night with three points to help the Bulldogs cut the best-of-seven series to 2-1.

Hamilton's Florian Xhekaj was tossed just five minutes into the contest when he hit Clarke from behind and was handed a five-minute checking to the head major and game misconduct to go along with a five-minute major after fighting Tyler Savard who came to the aid of his teammate.

"On both hits, the players were able to play, so that will be a big factor in the decision-making," said Colts head coach Marty Williamson on both game misconducts that will be reviewed by the league.

Facing the chance of being put on the brink of elimination, the Bulldogs backed by three goals from Dallas Stars prospect Artem Grushnikov played their best game of the series and for the most part stayed out of the box after paying a heavy price for a lack of discipline in the series' opening two games in Barrie.

Callum Chisholm's second of the night on a nice setup by Chris Grisolia cut the Hamilton lead to 4-3 late in the second, but despite some good chances in the third couldn't get the equalizer before Grushnikov iced the win with two empty-net goals.  

"It was tough. We went down and every time we got a goal back it felt like they just went right down and got another one," said Chisholm, who now has three goals in the series. "We were kind of chasing all game, and it's unfortunate, but I think we just got to come back next game and work harder and hopefully get a different result."

After Grushnikov scored just under seven minutes in, Chisholm and Jacob Frasca replied just 68 seconds apart late in the first to put Barrie on top.

Adrian Rebelo tied it late in the opening frame, before Sherk and Cole Brown, with the game-winner, beat Anson Thornton just 18 seconds apart to go up 4-2 and take a lead they wouldn't relinquish.

"We were a little off our game and kind of just dug ourselves a hole," said Williamson. "At times we looked good, but then we just didn't play a good 60 minutes. It's a good lesson for us to learn."

Game 4 of the series goes Tuesday night at FirstOntario Centre.

"Get home now, get some sleep and regroup tomorrow and get feeling good about ourselves and then get ready to come here for Tuesday," Williamson said of putting this one behind them. "I didn't think this was going to be easy at the start.

"You win the first game by a big number, but everything's a chore. Mississauga beat North Bay (4-3 on Sunday) and there's no easy games.

"These are young men, and sometimes we think it's going to be a bit easier than it turns out to be."

A win Tuesday would give Barrie a commanding 3-1 series lead and a chance to wrap things up back at home on Thursday night.

"If anything, the playoffs are about having a short memory," said Chisholm. "I think the best teams always have short memories. Adversity at this stage of the playoffs is not always a bad thing.

"This isn't bad. We'll come back next game and hopefully get it done."

Hamilton had yet to lead at any time in the series before Sunday.

"You got to persevere, find ways," said Williamson. "That's what the journey in a playoff run is all about."

The Colts are already without Beau Jelsma, who suffered a concussion in the third period of the series opener last Thursday.

Hamilton's Sahill Panwar, who nailed Jelsma along the boards, was given a checking to the head major and game misconduct.

The league had handed Panwar, Hamilton's leading scorer, an indefinite suspension, but on Sunday posted it was two games and Panwar could return for Game 4.

Jelsma, who is in concussion protocol, will not play Tuesday.

"We'll have to deal with it," said Williamson.

Game time Tuesday is 7 p.m.

ICE CHIPS: Chisholm, who had 10 goals all season, scored three in his last four regular season games and now has three in three playoff games, tying him with Declan McDonnell Clarke for the team lead. "When I got back to forward, I kind of lost my game a little bit from the start of the year," said Chisholm, who helped out for two months on the blueline because of injuries. "I worked hard to build that back up in this last month or two and I'm just trying to contribute as much as I can and hopefully I can keep doing that and we'll get a good result." . . . After scoring six power-play goals in the opening two games, the Colts were 0-for-2 last night. Hamilton was 0-for-3. . . Thornton stopped 22 of 26 shots, while Matteo Drobac picked up his first playoff win for Hamilton with 27 saves on 30 shots. . . Braden Haché had an assist and now has six points (1G, 5A) in three games.

banner image: Terry Wilson/OHL Images

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