Published March 17, 2024

Colts lose to Wolves, but still clinch playoff berth

Drop traditional St. Patrick's Day game 6-1
Barrie Colts

The Barrie Colts didn’t plan on clinching a playoff berth this way, but all that matters is they made good on their goal of ensuring head coach Marty Williamson kept his impressive run going.

With a little help from the North Bay Battalion and their 7-4 win over the Peterborough Petes, the Colts wrapped up the OHL’s final playoff berth despite a 6-1 loss to the Sudbury Wolves, Saturday night, at Sadlon Arena.

Coming into the night, the Colts needed just a single point in their remaining six regular season games to eliminate the Petes and wrap up the eighth and final playoff berth in the Eastern Conference.

A Petes' loss not only made good on that, but it would help mark 16 straight years behind the bench that Williamson has guided his team to the playoffs.

“A lot of people probably counted us out, but we were fighting for Marty,” Carter Lowe, who had Barrie’s lone goal, said of the young, rebuilding club making the playoffs. “He’s gone 15 seasons making the playoffs and all the guys in that room wanted to keep it going.

“We were trying to add to that legacy.”

The Colts looked to the future at the OHL trade deadline back in early January when they traded away veterans Jacob Frasca, Connor Punnett, Anson Thornton and import sniper Eduard Sale, but the young club set a goal of making the playoffs and did exactly that.

“I think I’m safe speaking for Marty and the rest of the coaching staff that we’re extremely proud of this group,” said assistant coach Dylan Smoskowitz. “Marty had a nice chat with the guys before going off for the (St. Patrick’s game jersey auction after the game). Going into the trade deadline and getting rid of some of our older and much veteran guys, and going with a much younger, inexperienced lineup, these guys never quit.

“That’s one thing you can say about this group, they never quit. They play their hearts out every single night.”

While Barrie (26-33-4-0) is expected to be a heavy underdog regardless of who its first-round opponent is, the coaching staff believes they’ll leave everything on the ice much like they did in punching their ticket to the postseason.

“No matter what the score is, they go hard until the final whistle, they show up and give it their all in practice,” added Smoskowitz. “They want extra video, they want extra teaching from the coaches, so we have all the time in the world for this group. We really believe whoever we do face in the first round, we’re going to be one tough out for them.

“That’s our goal for this group, be one tough out and give them nothing for free. We have all the confidence in the world that these guys can do it.”

Sudbury (36-21-4-3) broke open a relatively tight game late in the second. After Lowe’s fourth of the season cut the lead to 2-1 at 7:27, Quentin Musty, with his second of the night on the power play, and Andre Anania scored just 27 seconds apart to help Sudbury take command.

Dalibor Dvorsky and David Goyette iced things late in the third. It was an important win for the Wolves, who are a single point behind both the Mississauga Steelheads and North Bay in the race for top spot in the Central Division.

 Sudbury, which had dropped four of its four previous five games and had been struggling to keep the puck out of the net, got a solid performance from goaltender Nate Krawchuk, who was making his first appearance since Jan. 13 and the big trio of David Goyette, the OHL’s scoring leader, Musty and Goyette.

The big guns combined for four goals and six assists and a total of 10 points. Three of the goals came on the power play.

“All three of those guys, they’re real talented players and they like to do their thing and home in on their craft on the power play,” said Smoskowitz. “Our penalty kill is a work in progress and I got to give our guys credit, they’re really working hard at it. They definitely don’t take this lightly.

“It’s not like we’re not going to look at the video and get right back to work tomorrow and prepare for Niagara (Sunday afternoon). As long as we hit our stride going into the playoffs, which is the goal, I think we’ll be OK.

“They’ll watch video (Sunday) morning and correct issues we saw tonight.”

The loss was the fourth straight for the Colts who will look to break the streak on the road Sunday against the IceDogs.

Barrie is in the middle of a stretch that will see them play seven times in 10 days to close out the regular season.

“It’s a tough skid that we’re on right now and the games are so condensed,” said Lowe. “We’re trying to get that rest.”

Smoskowitz credited the Wolves for their effort, but made it clear he felt the Colts were far from their best on this night.

“I think we played not to our calibre.” he said. “I think we had a lot more in the tank. Yeah, we’ll give them a little bit of credit tonight. Sure, if you want to call it that, but our guys have a lot more.

“We’ve got a crazy, busy schedule now and we’re running our guys hard. We just want to be hitting our stride going into the playoffs, so anything we saw tonight that we weren’t happy with we’re just going to learn from it. It’s not the end of the world.”

Game time Sunday at the Meridian Centre is 2 p.m.

ICE CHIPS: Nathan McCallum had the other Sudbury goal. . . The Colts were sporting their traditional St. Patrick’s Day jerseys and auctioned them off after the game. . . Barrie captain Beau Jelsma, who had a couple of quality chances in the third, had his 17-game point streak (18-13-31) come to an end. It’s the fifth longest in the OHL this season. . . Ben West made 33 saves for the Colts, who were outshot 39-29. . . Roenick Jodoin (shoulder) did not dress for Barrie as didn’t Kashawn Aitcheson who sat out the final game of a two-game suspension. . . Dvorsky, who finished with five points (1G, 4A) ran his point streak to 11 games (10-13-23). The St. Louis Blues 10th overall pick in the 2023 NHL draft now has an impressive 40 goals and 41 assists for 81 points in just 48 games. . . The two teams will meet once more in Sudbury on Friday.

Banner image via Terry Wilson/OHL Images

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