Colts keep feisty Wolves at bay, move within three points of division lead
Barrie is three points behind the North Bay Battalion
In what could possibly be a first-round OHL playoff series, the Sudbury Wolves appeared determined to send a message Saturday night to Brandt Clarke and the Barrie Colts of just what it would be like.
Despite all the pushing and shoving, attempts to mix it up and going after the captain, Clarke and his teammates instead remained focused on the important task at hand and made the Wolves pay with two third-period power play goals to help put a 5-2 Barrie win on ice in front of a packed crowd of 4,212 at Sadlon Arena.
That task right now is chasing down the North Bay Battalion, who sit three points ahead of Barrie atop the Central Division standings.
“We’ve seen a lot of teams try and do this,” Colts head coach Marty Williamson said of Sudbury trying to get under Clarke’s skin and its attempts to intimidate his club. “We’re still focused on catching North Bay and winning hockey games. That’s all we’re worried about.”
The Wolves especially bared their teeth in the third period, but it came at time when they only trailed 2-1.
Instead of looking to score goals, it seemed like the Wolves were more intent on settling scores.
The result was a parade to the penalty box, spearheaded by a five-minute major slew-foot match penalty to Dylan Robinson, that led to the Colts blowing a tight game open on power-play goals by Jacob Frasca and Braden Haché early in the period.
“We’ll just let them take penalties,” said Colts forward Callum Chisholm, who racked up two assists in a strong effort. “They want to put us on the power play the whole game, we’ll capitalize hopefully and we can take advantage of that if we keep our composure and play our game and not focus on them.”
Ethan Cardwell, with a pair, including one into an empty net, and Chris Grisolia also scored for Barrie (38-16-6-2), which has won four straight and eight of its last 10 games.
Quentin Musty, who cut the lead to one in the second after Barrie jumped out to a 2-0 first period lead, and David Goyette scored for Sudbury (27-27-5-2), which will be back in Barrie on the final weekend of the regular season.
Boasting the OHL’s fourth-ranked power play (24.7 per cent efficiency) and penalty killing (81.6 per cent), the Colts specialty teams were a force in this one. They finished 2-for-6 with the man advantage to beat Sudbury for the sixth time in seven games.
“We think we got a pretty good power play and if teams want to take penalties, that’s what we got to do is make them pay,” said Williamson. “It’s one of the weapons we have and we need to use it.
“You can’t have specialty teams not be a factor, because right now we’re near the top of the league in both of them. We can kill penalties, but we need to score too.”
Barrie’s penalty kill, led by goalie Anson Thornton, came up big in the first half of this contest. Sudbury opened the game with four straight power plays, but Thornton and the Colts slammed the door on each of them to allow Barrie to grab the early lead.
“Our penalty killers are awesome,” said Chisholm. “They’re all out there blocking shots, playing selfless hockey, working hard for us. They don’t get enough credit. They play a really important role for us.”
Thornton made 27 saves in this one to grab his 26 win and move into a third-place tie with London’s Brett Brochu in wins among OHL goalies.
“As long as we don’t give up the A-plus chance, with Thornton if he can see it, he can stop anything,” said Williamson. “We just need to stay away from the big, easy one-timers, the back door type plays, and our guys are doing a good job that way. All the routine stuff, he makes the save.”
Barrie outshot Sudbury 50-19, including 22-9 in the third period.
With only six games remaining on the schedule for Barrie and North Bay, the cat and mouse battle atop the division appears as though it will go right down to the final weekend.
The Colts will hope to get some help from London in North Bay on Sunday afternoon and then try to move within a point on Wednesday when they hit the road to take on the Mississauga Steelheads.
All Barrie can do to give themselves a chance at home ice through two rounds is take care of their own business over these final two weekends.
“That’s it. Just win hockey games,” said Williamson. “Get into good habits and all those good things, which is what we want for the playoffs. We don’t want to go in playing poorly and that. We got through this weekend and we didn’t gain anything. We’re still three points behind.
“They got London (Sunday), so this could be our opportunity with the Mississauga game to get it to one. We’re taking it game by game.”
Chisholm played one of his better offensive games, playing the role of playmaker and using his six-foot-four, 229 pound frame to screen Sudbury goalies Nate Krawchuk and Kevyn Brassard.
“That’s my game. That’s what I have to do,” he said. “I have to use my body, play physical and get to the front of the net. Get hard on the forecheck.
“I think that’s what makes me successful, so that’s what I got to do.”
In and out of the lineup, Williamson says Chisholm will likely get a longer look after this performance.
“He gave us a good effort and when the big man is moving his feet, he’s effective out there,” said the Colts GM and head coach. “When he’s watching the game, that’s when we had problems with him. You don’t come out of the lineup when you play games like that.”
Game time Wednesday at the Paramount Fine Foods Centre is 7 p.m.
ICE CHIPS: Cardwell now has a career high 38 goals and 82 points after his two goals and two assists on Saturday. His four-point night increased his scoring streak to eight games (10-7-17). . . Clarke drew two assists to run his scoring streak to 12 games (6-16-22), while Evan Vierling is now up to an 11-game point streak (12-15-27) after drawing an assist. . . Frasca had a goal called back in the first period that would have made it 3-0. . . Beau Jelsma was sporting a face-shield after getting hit in the face with a puck late in the London game on Thursday. . . Krawchuk was pulled at 12:21 of the first after giving up two goals on nine shots. Kevyn Brassard replaced him and gave up just two goals on 40 shots the rest of the way. Brassard was spectacular in the third, keeping the Wolves in this one. . . Barrie’s Roenick Jodoin and Tyler Savard both left the contest late.
Banner image via Terry Wilson / OHL Images