The Barrie Colts can’t keep the puck out of their own net right now and it’s likely cost them any chance of finishing atop the Central Division this season.
The Sudbury Wolves completed an eight-game season sweep and all but wrapped the division title with an 8-3 win over the Colts, Thursday night, at Sadlon Arena.
The loss was the fifth straight for the Colts, who now trail the Wolves by eight points with just eight games remaining in the regular season.
“I thought about six guys came to play today, to be honest, with our team,” a disappointed Colts head coach Todd Miller said after the game. “You could see it from the start of the game, the mistakes and the same old thing. We discussed it in the room, we need everybody. With this young team, we need everybody to play.”
Barrie has been outscored 32-11 during the skid and last night it was Sudbury’s top line of Quinton Byfield, Blake Murray and David Levin doing the damage. Murray led the attack with three goals and an assist, while Levin had a goal and two helpers and Byfield three assists.
Together the Wolves’ top line combined for four goals and 10 points and dominated at times.
“The little mistakes from the stuff in the high slot and the middle areas, guys like Murray, Byfield, and Levin had all day,” Miller said. “I don’t think any of them were even hit once tonight. That was the game plan, to make sure we eliminate them and make it a hard game for them, and we did not do that.
“I think we had some chances early when it was 3-2 for sure, but the game started getting away from us and we’re not owning the inside ice and if you’re not going to own the inside ice, you’re going to pay for it.”
“Too many mistakes in the middle of the ice. That’s the one area we worked on all week of taking care of.”
The Colts took a 2-1 lead into the second period, but the Wolves scored four times in less than six minutes to take control.
“I think we let off the gas a little bit,” said Colts forward Evan Vierling, who had a pair of assists and hit the post at least twice. “They have some real talented players on that team and you can’t give them too much space or they’ll capitalize.”
Nolan Hutcheson, with a pair, Owen Robinson and Nathan Ribau, with his first in the OHL, also scored for the Wolves (33-26-1-1), who got a solid 25-save performance in goal from Barrie native Mitchell Weeks.
Tyson Foerster scored twice on the power play and Brandt Clarke, on a spectacular individual effort, scored for the Colts (27-27-4-2), who had numerous scoring chances throughout the game.
Things came apart when Murray and Robinson scored just 61 seconds apart early in the second to put Sudbury on top, 3-2.
“We were frazzled, but again we were losing coverage,” Miller said. “That’s the one thing, we just have to defend better. Offensively we let them play hockey, but defensively they got responsibilities and it got away on them, and they saw how it got away on them quick if they’re not going to do the right thing.
“We had a talk after the game tonight and they know where they’re at. We got a couple of big games (coming up) here and all I want is the work ethic in our own end to go to another level. Take care of that and the other stuff will take care of itself.”
Foerster’s second of the game and team-leading 34th of the season late in the second cut the lead to 5-3, but Barrie couldn’t capitalize on some early third-period power-play chances and it would be as close as they would get.
“We have to keep going,” Vierling said. “It’s only the guys in the room that are going to get ourselves out of it. We just have to keep doing the little things much harder because we have a couple of hard games coming up.”
Miller said his team is going to have to learn and learn quick if they want to have a good run here in the playoffs.
“You got to pay attention and be ready to go out of the gate,” he said. “We’re coming out pretty slowly in games and I’m just finding we’re not getting some luck at times, but then we’re also not taking advantage with our power plays and five-on-threes, and that can make a huge difference for us.”
The weekend doesn’t get any easier for the Colts who take on two of the top teams in the OHL. On Friday night, they travel to Kitchener to take on a Rangers team coming off an emotional loss to London and then return home Saturday night for their third game in three nights to face a well-rested Ottawa 67s club that is first overall.
“I don’t mind it,” Miller said of the tough weekend schedule. “I’d like to see the better teams right now and maybe teach these guys that they’re going to have to defend. They see what happened tonight, so they got two teams just like that coming at us. All I’m concentrating on is defending and playing the right way and get back to where we eliminate chances and play the right style of hockey we want to get ready for the playoffs.
“We want to have a chance in the playoffs, we got to know how to play in our own end.”
Game time tonight at the Kitchener Memorial Auditorium is 7:30 p.m.
ICE CHIPS: Midhurst native Macauley Carson played in his 302nd career game for the Wolves, setting a franchise record and eclipsing the mark set by Jamie Matthews in 1994…Arturs Silovs stopped 33 of 40 shots in goal for Barrie.
feature image of Midhurst native Macauley Carson via Terry Wilson/OHL Images