The Barrie Colts were determined Saturday night to serve notice they can compete with the top teams in the OHL.
They did exactly that, thanks in large part to a goaltender who had a message of his own.
Jet Greaves turned aside all 33 shots he faced and the Colts put on one of their best efforts of the season to hand the Peterborough Petes a 2-0 defeat at the Colts Centre.
Peterborough came into the contest have won four of its last five games and tied atop the OHL standings with the Oshawa Generals, but the Colts got all the offence they needed from Jacob Frasca and Tyler Tucker and put together one of their best defensive efforts of the season, led by Greaves who came up big when he had to.
“It was a hell of a game. The best game of the year so far,” Colts head coach Warren Rychel said. “We bought in defensively, we took care of some things we knew they were going to do. They were rested, we were rested. It was probably the best game in the league tonight. It was unbelievable.”
The Colts (14-6-1-0) were anxious to measure themselves against one of the top teams in the league.
“Any time you play a top team like that you get excited for it,” said Greaves, who posted his second shutout of the season and the third of his career. “You could tell with the crowd out there it kind of felt like a playoff game, so that’s a big win for us to kind of build confidence moving forward.”
The win also had to provide Greaves with a big boost. The second-year puck stopper came into this season looking to grab the starter’s role between the pipes, but instead could only watch as Vancouver Canucks prospect Arturs Silovs wrestled away the No. 1 job, getting the starting nod in eight of the last nine games.
While Greaves focus remains on just being ready when his number comes up, his effort in the win spoke volumes.
“Anytime you can help your team get a win is exciting, but I think for me it’s just about controlling what I can control and just do my best to help win games,” he said.
Rychel was especially happy for his young goaltender, who took it on the chin in an earlier blowout loss to Owen Sound where he got little help from his teammates.
“He had some bad luck there going back to that 10-0 game and he hadn’t quite recovered from it and now it looks like he has, so it was great,” Rychel said of Greaves’ shutout. “He’s been a good soldier while Silovs has been playing. He comes to the rink with a smile on his face and I’m happy for him and all the boys are happy for him too.”
Frasca got what proved to be all the offence Barrie would need on this night midway through the first period when Victor Hadfield fired the puck toward the net and it bounced off the rookie, who was upended in front, and past Petes goaltender Hunter Jones.
Peterborough looked to have the equalizer early in the second, but it was called back on an offside. A double minor for high sticking to Tucker and a tripping penalty to Aidan Brown late in the same frame gave the Petes a full two-minute, two-man advantage, but Greaves came up with several big stops to keep his team ahead.
The Colts penalty kill was perfect, holding the Petes scoreless on seven chances with the man advantage, while Tucker’s blast from the point just 42 seconds into the third, with Barrie on the power play, provided the home team with some insurance.
“The special teams were real good,” Rychel said. “(Tucker) lets one go and hats off to that long five-on-three kill.”
Greaves topped off his big night and sealed the shutout when he kicked out his left pad to rob Liam Kirk on the doorstep with less than a minute remaining.
“I was just trying to keep the puck out of the net and get the two points,” he said.
The Colts wrap up a busy three-game weekend with a Sunday afternoon contest in North Bay. While the Battalion have lost 11 straight, the Colts know they can ill afford to take the foot off the pedal against what will be a determined team in a building they have had troubles winning in over the last few seasons.
“We have to be ready to go,” said Greaves, who earned a 3-0 shutout in the season opener in the only other meeting between the two Central Division rivals this season. “They’re going to come out hungry. For us, we just have to keep it simple and come with the same energy we did tonight and it should be good.”
Game time is 2 p.m.
ICE CHIPS: Tyson Foerster drew an assist on Tucker’s power-play goal to run his scoring streak to 12 games (9-12-21). . . Peterborough outshot Barrie, 33-29. . . Both teams were missing their top forwards with Barrie’s Ryan Suzuki (eye) and Petes’ Nick Robertson (broken finger) out of the lineup. . . Three of Hadfield’s four points on the season have come in the last four games.