Nicholas Porco made sure new teammate Mack Guzda had all the offensive support he would need in his crease debut with the Barrie Colts on Saturday night.
The overage forward recorded his first career hat trick and Guzda made a solid first impression with a 23-save performance in front of the hometown fans to power the Barrie Colts to a 6-2 win over the Niagara IceDogs at Sadlon Arena.
Guzda, who was acquired in trade with Owen Sound on Friday, was happy to get the first win under his belt and appreciative of the offensive support he got from Porco and his new teammates.
“The guys played a real good game,” said the overage goalie, who arrives in Barrie with the OHL’s top save percentage (.916) among starting goalies. “We put up a lot of goals, so it was a fun one for sure.”
Ryan Del Monte, Artur Cholach, with his first OHL goal, and Oskar Olausson also scored for the Colts (8-6-2-0) who jumped out to a 3-0 lead after the first period and built a 5-1 lead after the second to give Guzda a cushion.
Not that Guzda would need much of it on this night against the slumping IceDogs (5-11), who have now lost eight of their last 10 games.
The six-foot-five, 205-pound Knoxville, TN native flashed the glove early and provided the steady presence the Colts have been looking for between the pipes all season.
“Not really,” Guzda said when asked if he felt nervous in his first. “Obviously there’s a little bit playing with a new team, but it was really just more exciting. I was happy to get out there and I was glad we could get a win in the first game.”
Porco is more than familiar with the big goalie and what he brings to the Barrie crease.
“I’ve always had a hard time scoring on Guzda when he was in Owen Sound and even in Team Canada camps,” said the veteran winger who now has seven goals on the season. “I’ve played against him quite a few times, so it’s nice to have him on our team. He’s a big boy and he’s frigging good back there.”
Guzda spent four seasons in Owen Sound and his wealth of experience with 141 games played will provide a big boost for a Barrie team that came into the season as one of the favourites in the Eastern Conference.
With the Attack in a rebuilding phase, the veteran is happy to join a team looking to make a deep playoff run.
“I’m really excited about the opportunity,” Guzda said. “I think we got a real good team here in Barrie and I think we’re going to have a chance to make a push for it. “Especially this being my last year, that’s really exciting and I’m thrilled about it.”
Porco has been heating up offensively and the truth is it couldn’t come at a better time. With Guzda’s arrival, the Colts now have four overagers and one over the maximum three that can dress every night.
With Nathan Allensen a key part of the blue line, that more than likely means one of Anthony Tabak, who was scratched last night, or Porco will be moved.
Something not lost on Porco, who now has five goals and an assist in his last five games. After a frustrating start the puck is finally starting to go in for the veteran.
“I’m just getting more confident with my game out there,” Porco said. “I think I’m using my speed well, and the game is starting to feel a bit slower for me.
“There’s a little bit of a distraction with the (overage) situation here now, but I just go out every night and play for the team and just try to get the win.”
Niagara’s strong start in the second was rewarded as Brice Cook finally beat Guzda to cut the lead to 3-1, but the Colts vast improvement on specialty teams helped them hold the fort.
Olausson shovelled one home in front for Barrie’s third power-play goal of the night and the penalty kill, which struggled all season before the last few games, did its job before Porco all but put the visitors away with his second of the night late in the period.
“I thought we got a little salty near the end of the first, beginning of the second, but the whole game we just powered through it,” Porco said. “Everything that happened with penalties and all, we just powered through for the win.”
Cameron Butler’s power-play goal just 54 seconds into the third would cut the lead, but Porco finished off the hat trick into an empty net with 1:12 remaining to snap Barrie’s two-game losing skid.
“It took me a while, but it felt really good,” Porco said of completing the hat trick.
Allensen, who had three assists, found his teammate alone at centre and flipped the puck up to him.
“I won’t lie, I was thinking about it when I was out there a little bit,” Porco said. “I know (Ethan) Cardwell tried to get me it first and then it went to Allensen and I knew they were going to find me.
“Two of my best buddies on the team and I knew that they were going to find me.”
Guzda will get the chance to face his old teammates when the Colts host the Owen Sound Attack next Thursday. Game time is 7:30 p.m.ICE CHIPS: Niagara went 1-for-7 on the power play, while Barrie went 3-for-4. Barrie’s penalty kill, which ranks 18th of 20 teams, has been scored on just two times on the last 15 chances when shorthanded. . . The Colts outshot the IceDogs 31-25. . . Hunter Haight and Cardwell each added two helpers. . . The Colts sported their red Real Canadian Superstore jerseys. The jerseys are up for auction with proceeds going to the PC Children’s Charity. Visit the [http://www.barriecolts.com to make abid.]http://www.barriecolts.com to make a bid.
Banner Image: NICHOLAS PORCO: Overage forward Nicholas Porco recorded his first career hat trick to help lead the Barrie Colts to a 6-2 win over the Niagara IceDogs on Saturday night at Sadlon Arena. TERRY WILSON/OHL IMAGES