Thornton holds fort as Colts rally for win in Saginaw
Thornton turned aside 33 of 34 shots, Brandt Clarke recorded a third-period hat trick
A big effort in goal by Anson Thornton allowed the Barrie Colts to rally late Sunday night in Saginaw and cap off a busy weekend road trip in winning fashion.
Thornton turned aside 33 of 34 shots and Brandt Clarke recorded a third-period hat trick to help the Colts rally past the Spirit 4-1, at the Dow Event Centre.
Thornton held the fort early, with only Olivier Savard managing to get the puck past him on 28 shots through the first 40 minutes.
That allowed his teammates to come back in the third. Clarke tied it midway through the frame and Jacob Frasca, with Barrie on the power play, deflected in the winner with a little under three minutes remaining.
Two empty-net goals by Clarke sealed the win for Barrie (25-13-4-2), its second of three weekend games.
“Thornton had our backs the whole game and he was there to make the big saves,” said Frasca. “We just built and built the momentum and by the third period we were all fired up and had a way to execute finally, and we just kept going and going and came out with the win.”
Thornton, making his second start, was the story. He made several big stops and kept the game close before the Colts came to life in the third.
“One of the underlying factors of the game was Thornton was fantastic,” said Colts head coach Marty Williamson. “He gave us a first period that we were only down by one and he shut the door there on a breakaway when we were pushing a little too hard there in the third. It was just an outstanding game by him.”
Clarke’s three-goal game was the first of his career and the first for a Barrie defenceman since former Colt and current Florida Panther Aaron Ekblad scored four times in an 8-5 win over Kingston at home on Jan. 11, 2014.
The Colts captain, who also added an assist for a four-point night, now has 10 goals and 19 points in nine games this season. Six of those goals and eight of those points came this weekend alone.
Clarke had to have dental work after taking a stick in the face Friday in Kitchener.
“You look for things to inspire and that was inspiring goaltending, but also Brandt’s whole weekend,” said Williamson. “You get your teeth knocked out like he did and then to lead our team like the captain he is and that’s just great leadership in that dressing room.”
Saginaw (24-18-2-0), which has dropped to fifth in the Western Conference standings after sitting on top in late December, has now lost eight straight.
The Spirit looked like they might just snap the skid when Clarke, from along the right boards, fired a shot over the left shoulder of Andrew Oke.
Things went from bad to worse for the home team when Roberto Mancini was sent off for slashing and allowing the OHL’s second-ranked power-play unit to go to work.
“It’s a weapon for us and we’ve spent a lot of time with it, so it’s nice to seem them execute and get it done when we needed it most,” said Williamson of the power play. “That’s like playoff hockey. We know there’s not many penalties and there weren’t many tonight, but when you get opportunities you got to make them pay.”
A set play by Connor Punnett and Frasca ensured the Spirit did pay.
From along the right boards, Punnett fired the puck across the front of the crease to Frasca, who had his stick out and ready to deflect it past Oke.
“We were on the power play and we knew we had to execute,” said Frasca of his game-winner. “We knew we had the weapons. I saw Punnett there and we had worked on it in practice a couple of times and I knew he was going to put it in the spot there.
“I got my stick on it and the rest is history.”
Williamson wasn’t happy with his team’s play in the opening period, but felt they got better as the game went along.
“That’s what we needed,” he said. “We got the power play, we got that opportunity and Clarke had put us in that position. Frasca did an outstanding job on those final faceoffs. Clarke will get all the rewards for finishing them, but those are big faceoff wins for us.”
Three-in-three weekend trips aren’t easy, but Frasca says the way the Colts battled back in their ninth period in three days shows the team’s “heart.”
“Our team stuck in there and we took some pride and were passionate,” said the veteran, who also added two helpers for a three-point night. “When the time came, we were ready to pounce on it.
“It just shows the culture of our team. We build each other up and even though it was the ninth period, we were ready.”
ICE CHIPS: Colts return to action next Friday in Oshawa with their fourth-straight road game. The contest will kick off their second-straight three-in-three weekend. They host Kingston on Saturday, before heading to Sudbury on Sunday afternoon. . . Clarke is one goal off his career high 11 notched last season. . . Frasca has a goal and five assists in his last two games after being held pointless in his previous four games. . . Barrie was outshot 35-24. . . The Colts were 2-for-4 on the power play, while the Spirit were 0-for-2.
banner image: Terry Wilson/OHL Images