Published March 6, 2023

Vierling records hat trick, five-point night in Colts win in Owen Sound

Overager runs point streak to nine games
Vierling records hat trick, five-point night in Colts win in Owen Sound

Few players, if any, have been as good as Evan Vierling has been in the second half of this Ontario Hockey League season.

The Barrie Colts forward continued that dominance Sunday afternoon in Owen Sound.

Vierling scored three times, including one on a penalty shot, and polished off another impressive effort with five points in all to power the Colts to a 6-3 win over the Attack at the Harry Lumley Bayshore Community Centre.

The overage forward has been on a run and then some.

Sunday's five-point effort ran his scoring streak to nine games (12-12-24) and moved him up to a season-high seventh overall in league scoring, with 34 goals and 48 assists for 82 points in just 53 games.

Left unsigned after the New York Rangers selected him in the fifth round (127 overall) of the 2020 NHL Entry Draft, Vierling sits a mere four points behind Amadeus Lombardi for the third spot despite having played seven fewer games than the Flint forward.

"He's been as good as anybody in this league," Colts head coach Marty Williamson said of the scorching Vierling, who has 15 goals and 14 assists for 29 points in 14 games over the last month. "If there's a new contract for an overage player, this kid deserves it.

"He's playing gritty for me; he's killing the bottom 30 seconds of penalties. His power play is outstanding. He's done everything we've asked, and he's really showing he deserves an opportunity."

But Williamson says it's not just his elite play-making skills that make Vierling a player any team would want to bring into their system.

The 20-year-old, along with overage linemate Ethan Cardwell, has become a much more rounded player.

"That's really the biggest thing, his compete level without the puck," added the Colts bench boss on Vierling, who recorded his 200-career point Sunday in 211 games. "He's always been a magician with the puck and making players better, but if you go deep into the playoffs you have to be able to handle things and that's the habits that have been outstanding for him in the last bit.

"Cardwell has been the same thing. Both those guys were one-dimensional and not anymore. They're helping me all over the ice and that's taken that line to a whole new level."

Cardwell added two goals and an assist in helping Barrie (36-16-6-2) to its sixth win in the last seven games and help them remain three points behind the North Bay Battalion atop the Central Division standings after the Troops blanked Niagara 4-0 at home on Sunday.

The San Jose Sharks prospect, also looking to ink a pro contract, now has 35 goals and 41 assists for 76 points to sit 14 overall in league scoring.

Cardwell has been on his own tear, improving his scoring streak to six games (7-4-11).

"I thought we got a pretty good effort today from top-down and they did what they do," said Williamson of his two veterans. "They get offensive chances, they're our best scorers.

"They have the ability to finish, and that's what they did to help us."

Tyler Savard got the other goal for the Colts, while Beau Jelsma drew an assist on Cardwell's late power-play goal to record his 100 career OHL point (54G, 46A) in his 128 OHL game.  

Orillia native Colby Barlow, who also added an assist, Taos Jordan and Kaleb Lawerence scored for Owen Sound (29-24-4-1), which dropped its seventh game in the last 10.

Not lost amongst among the big efforts in this one for Barrie was another strong effort by goaltender Anson Thornton.

The veteran stopped 33 of 36 shots he faced to record his 24 win, fourth-most among OHL goalies this season.

Thornton was especially good in the third period. He shut the door when Lawrence cut the lead to 4-3 a little more than five minutes in long enough for Vierling and Cardwell to seal the deal.

His most impressive save came late in the game on a shorthanded Owen Sound three-on-one with the Colts up 5-3.

"When he dove across, and he made that save, it shows how big and athletic he is," said Williamson. "That's what you need. This is junior hockey; you need it in every game. It's difficult to shut teams down, and you need him to step up and make some big saves. Hopefully, it's not a ridiculous amount of them, and I thought that's the balance we got.

"When we did break down, the big guy was there for us."

It's been a long, busy stretch these last two months for the Colts, filled with three and, at times, four games a week.

Barrie will have its lone two-game week since Christmas this coming week when they host the London Knights on Thursday and then the Sudbury Wolves on Saturday.

Since the Christmas break, they've played 30 games.

"After the first game (a 7-5 loss to Hamilton on Thursday) we were a lot better against Mississauga (3-2 win) and I thought we were a lot better against a good Owen Sound team," said Williamson. "We're proud of these guys.

"We just got to talk about making sure we start on time in the Thursday game (against London)."

The Knights, currently second overall in the OHL standings, will provide a real good test for a Colts team determined to show they can match up against the best.

"It's the same thing as playing here," said Williamson. "(Owen Sound) brings the best out of us. It's a feisty game, it's a small building. I thought we really engaged, everybody on the bench every shift.

"You got to handle London the same way. When you play London it's a big deal. We've had good battles with them and the history (losing OHL finals in 2013). It brings out the best and that's what you got to get to beat them."

ICE CHIPS: In their only other matchup this season, Barrie fell 5-4 in overtime to London in early November. . . . Brandt Clarke recorded an assist to run his point streak 10 games (6-13-19). . . Owen Sound outshot Barrie 36-30. Nick Chenard made 24 stops in goal for the Attack. The Colts finished 2-for-3 on the power play. . . Barrie has just eight games remaining, including five at home (vs. London, Sudbury twice, Owen Sound and Niagara and three on the road (vs. Mississauga, Kingston and Ottawa).

banner image: Terry Wilson, OHL Images

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