Colts take care of business with dominating win over IceDogs
Fire season-high 61 shots
The Barrie Colts were facing the OHL’s last-place team on the road Thursday night, but there was no going easy.
Putting on their most dominant effort of the season, the Colts fired a season-high 61 shots and Evan Vierling scored twice to power the visitors to a 5-1 victory over the Niagara IceDogs at Meridian Centre.
With just two wins in the New Year, the IceDogs with a league-worst 10-33-6-1 record appeared like easy pickings. Coming off a pair of tough losses last weekend, the Colts were having none of that.
There was no looking past their opponents on this night.
“No, not at all,” said Vierling, who added an assist to finish the night with three points. “We stuck to our structure and didn’t cheat for goals. If we play defence, our opportunities will always come.”
Barrie held Niagara to just 21 shots and few offensive chances. They spent most of the time in the IceDogs end in a game where they easily could have hit double digits on the scoreboard.
“We didn’t take the foot off the gas all night,” said Vierling, who added an assist to finish with three points. “There were a couple of shifts, obviously, but we stuck to our structure all night and game plan and ran up the scoreboard.”
Other than a bad early shift and when they gave up three 2-on-1s in the second, the Colts completely dominated.
A game after Colts head coach Marty Williamson expressed his disappointment with his team missing the net, they were right on target on this night.
“We kept getting the shots on net, getting traffic,” he said. “Those are the nights you get five and some nights you get 10.”
After a solid first period where goals by Ethan Cardwell and Vierling put Barrie in control, Juan Copeland looked to give Niagara a sign of life when he beat Anson Thornton at 14:04 of the middle frame.
The Colts, though, would come right back on a five-on-three power play and a strong play by Vierling.
The Colts overager had the puck down low along the boards when he spotted an open lane and weaved his way into the slot and beat goalie Owen Flores.
“When you get a close game and you get a power play, you always want to execute on those,” said Vierling, who now has 24 goals on the year. “Going into the playoffs, we want to make sure our specialty teams are going. The power-play goals always help.
“We always try to get at least one a game, so we just got to keep that going.”
It was Vierling’s second of the game and came a little more than a minute after Niagara had cut the lead in half.
“It was real important,” said Williamson of the goal. “It’s a play you can get so lazy on. You got five-on-three and you think you got all the time in the world and you’re making passes. He saw that opening, and he sprinted right to the net, went across and buried it. It’s not a play you see too often, five-on-three. A lot of credit to him.
“Vierling has been doing a heck of a job for us the last little while. He had a big hit in the game. He’s got some physical play going besides the skill level we know he has. I’m real happy with him.”
After a nine-game scoreless stretch from mid-January to the start of February, the veteran centre now has five goals and three assists in his last six games.
“I went through a little stretch there where I wasn’t producing as much, but I kind of just stuck to it,” said the 20-year-old native of Aurora. ” I always feel good helping the team in any way I can.”
The Colts fired 25 shots in the second frame and didn’t wait long to extend their lead in the third when Declan McDonnell crashed the net to hammer home a cross-crease pass from Jacob Frasca just 52 seconds in.
Connor Punnett added his 13th of the year past the midway point of the third to put the game out of reach.
“It was a great play,” Williamson said of McDonnell’s goal. “(Beau) Jelsma makes the first pass and then Frasca gets it over to the guy driving to the net. We talked about nothing is given, you got to earn it and that’s an earned goal.
“(McDonnell) driving the net on that play and then he gets into a fight for us later and that kind of stuff, so a lot of good team stuff.”
The Colts continue on the road Friday night when they travel to Hamilton to face a Bulldogs team that has gone 6-4 over their last 10 games despite unloading a large part of its championship roster of last season.
“We can’t take any games off,” said Vierling.
The Bulldogs are led by the red-hot duo of Sahil Panwar and Nick Lardis, who were both acquired from Peterborough. The linemates have combined for an eye-popping 20 goals and 25 assists in their last 13 games.
“These teams have been like giant killers. They’ve been playing the North Bays and Peterboroughs and Ottawa real hard, so we need to be aware of that,” said Williamson. “If we play our game, I like our chances. But if you get sloppy. . .”
“There’s no easy nights in this league,” added the Colts coach. “You got to go out there and earn it. It would be nice to get a little winning streak going.”
Game time at FirstOntario Centre is 7 p.m.
ICE CHIPS: The win was Williamson’s 302nd behind the bench with Barrie and puts him just three wins away from tying Dale Hawerchuk (305) for all-time lead in franchise history. . . The Colts should get a boost soon with the imminent return of three forwards. Tyler Savard is on concussion protocol and missed the game against Niagara after taking a hard hit Sunday in North Bay. “I think he’s going to be OK,” said Williamson. “It’s just that it was too quick a turnaround.” Forwards Cooper Matthews, out since Jan. 28 and Callum Chisholm, out since Jan. 19, have both been cleared to play. “They’ll have a full practice (Thursday) and then we’ll make a lineup decision with both guys.” . . . Barrie was 1-for-4 on the power play, Niagara 0-for-1. Frasca added a pair of assists, while Punnett also had a helper for a two-point night. Brandt Clarke’s assist on Vierling’s first goal was a beauty, weaving his way through the slot before sliding a no-look backhanded pass to his teammate at the side of the net.
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