Published February 19, 2023

Battalion rally in third to beat Colts, increase lead atop Central standings

With the win, North Bay increased its lead atop the division to six points
Barrie Colts North Bay Battalion

The cat-and-mouse battle atop the Central Division standings continued Saturday night between the Barrie Colts and North Bay Battalion.

Unfortunately for the Colts, it was the same old tale.

On the verge of watching their lead atop the division shrink to just two points, the Battalion scored three times in the third period to rally and scamper away with a 4-2 win in front of a sold-out crowd of 4,147 at Sadlon Arena. 

It marked the second straight weekend the Colts faced their division rivals parked right on their tail only to come up short in a 4-2 loss.

Barrie (30-15-6-2) jumped out to a 2-0 first period lead on goals by Evan Vierling and Brandt Clarke, but couldn't finish the job in the last regular season meeting between the two teams.

With the win, North Bay (36-15-1-1) increased its lead atop the division to six points. Both teams have just 15 games remaining on the OHL schedule.

"It's a tough one," Colts forward Callum Chisholm said of the loss in a game with a playoff-like atmosphere and intensity. "We know that we could have been two points back of them if we would have won that game, but this group doesn't give up.

"We have a lot of character in the room and we're just going to keep on pressing and do our very best to get as many wins as we can and tighten the gap."

Trailing 2-1 heading to the third, Josh Bloom tied it just 1:04 in and then Owen Van Steensel blasted a rebound past Anson Thornton for the game winner at the 12-minute mark.

Brayden Hislop would ice it shortly after that on a three-on-one.

"We'll have to reel them in the hard way now," said Colts head coach Marty Williamson. "We got a couple of games this week with Kingston (Monday), Erie (Thursday), Oshawa (Saturday) and Niagara (Sunday), so we got to get back on the horse and get a winning streak going."

Miscues cost the Colts this one. A fanned pass by Connor Punnett in front went right to Pasquale Zito to cut the lead to 2-1 early in the second.

 North Bay took advantage of a couple more in the third.

"We gifted them a couple of goals." said Williamson. "It's a lesson learned. I'm proud of our guys, we battled hard. It's just one of those things in the third period.

"You got a race for the puck and two guys kind of miscommunicate who's going to get it and we give up a lousy goal and then Clarke fell on the 4-2 goal. Even the first goal we kind of gifted to them."

The Colts could have made things easier on themselves had they been able to capitalize on the power play. In the second period they had four straight chances with the man advantage to add to their 2-1 lead, including a four-minute power play.

Instead they went scoreless on five chances all game.

"We didn't maybe have the puck luck that we wanted to," said Chisholm. "It could have easily gone the other way if we had a little bit more puck luck, but that's OK. In a seven game series, we're not going to have so much bad puck luck every game.

"Tonight they capitalized on their chances. Another game we'll capitalize and get them back."

If Barrie had scored on just one of those to increase their lead to 3-1, Williamson believes it could have been a whole different finish.

"A 2-1 game to a 3-1 game is a big difference," he said. "I think (Jacob) Frasca had the tap-in on the back door there and just kind of missed it. We had a couple of other good looks, but yeah give them credit. They found a way to hang around in the game and they wanted the third period."

North Bay goalie Dom DiVincentiis made 31 saves to grab his league-leading 28 win of the season. Thornton made 32 saves for Barrie.

North Bay finishes the season 5-1 against Barrie, with two of those wins being in overtime.
"They're a good hockey team and we're going to have to get closer to mistake-free than we were," said Williamson. "I thought we were a little snake-bitten on our offence. I thought we could have generated a few more goals, we had some big chances. We had some tap-in kind of opportunities that we didn't take advantage of, so we got to learn from it.

"It's not like we didn't give an effort and didn't play well. We got a day off (Sunday) and we got to get back on the horse in Kingston."

Game time Monday at Leon's Centre is 2 p.m.

ICE CHIPS: Vierling's first-period goal was his sixth in the last three games. . . Barrie had their second-straight Saturday sellout and the week before had a near sellout of 3,972. . . Monday's game in Kingston wraps up a busy stretch of seven games in 11 days for Barrie. . . Saturday was Hockey Fights Cancer night at the rink, with the Colts remembering former head coach Dale Hawerchuk.

Banner image via Terry Wilson/OHL Images

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