What the Barrie Colts lack in experience, they are more than making up these days with strong resilience.
Evan Vierling tied the contest with just 32 seconds remaining and rookie Brandt Clarke scored the lone goal of the shootout as the Colts rallied for a 4-3 road victory over the Erie Otters, Wednesday night, at Erie Insurance Arena.
“With a young team you’re always pumping them up and you want them to be as positive as possible,” said Colts head coach Todd Miller, whose club bounced back from Saturday’s tough loss to Sudbury with its seventh win in the past 10 games. “Just tell them to keep fighting to the bitter end and tonight’s a good example of don’t give up on it. We’ll push for chances.”
The OHL’s third-youngest team found itself in a hole midway through the third when Hayden Fowler redirected his second power-play goal of the night to put the Otters ahead, 3-2.
The Colts, though, would find a way to draw even thanks to a red-hot Vierling. The crafty centre took a feed from Tyson Foerster, stepped up to the top of the faceoff circle and wired a high shot over the left shoulder of Aidan Campbell to send the game into overtime.
Silovs, who was brilliant all night in stopping 33 shots, turned away all three Otters in the shootout, before Clarke, on Barrie’s third attempt, popped a beauty winner when he faked to his forehand, went backhand and lifted it upstairs to seal the comeback.
“The guys kept battling,” Miller said. “They kept pushing and pushing and we pulled the goalie, drew up something and they bought into it and we got one there. Then in the shootout, Clarke’s a special player and he outwaited the goalie and made a great play with a backhand and it was just a beautiful goal.”
Both Vierling (7-10-17) and Forester (9-10-19) ran their point streaks to 12 games. Vierling now has seven goals and 18 points in 15 games since coming to Barrie from Flint at the OHL trade deadline.
“He’s been great and he’s so calm and cool with the puck,” Miller said of the Aurora native. “He doesn’t get excited. He’s still got some room to grow defensively, but offensively he sees it so good. Even the goal he got at the end, he’s patient, waited it out and got us one there. He’s just been a pleasure to have here.”
Silovs made several big stops during regulation and made a huge toe save on Collingwood native Emmett Sproule in overtime to keep the game going.
“He’s a reason why we’ve won a lot of games and that’s what you need to do in this league to win games,” Miller said. “You need goaltenders to make big saves, have big nights.”
Josh Nelson, who opened the scoring in final minute of the first, and Jacob Frasca, who scored in the final minute in the second, also scored for the Colts (23-22-3-2), who moved to within a point of Mississauga for fifth place in the Eastern Conference standings.
Kyen Sopa had the other goal for the Otters (21-20-4-7), who have dropped four straight.
“When we can play heavy three lines, we’re a hard team to play against,” Miller said. “We’re getting production from all three. Even our fourth is giving us some minutes, but those three lines, when we can be fresh and have short shifts, I think that’s a big reason why we’re having more success.”
The Colts road trip continues tonight when they face the struggling Niagara IceDogs at the Meridian Centre. Niagara has lost nine straight and only won one of its last 12 games. The rebuilding IceDogs have given up 50 goals in their last six losses.
Barrie is coming off an 8-2 pounding in Niagara at the end of January.
“You can’t give teams any life, especially when they’re struggling,” said Miller, whose club is 2-1-0-1 against its division rivals. “We let off the gas, even a little bit, and give them some life early we don’t want to be chasing the game. We want to come out the same way we did tonight and the way we have the last while.
“We’re bringing it, we’re bringing the forecheck and we’re going to keep coming no matter what.”
Niagara sits just a single point ahead of Kingston for the eighth and final playoff spot in the conference and Miller knows they’ll be a desperate team tonight.
“You can’t take them lightly at all,” he added. “They’re pushing, they want to get into the playoffs and they’re going to do whatever they can. We got to not worry about them and just worry about being focused and doing our job.”
Puck drop tonight is 7 p.m.
ICE CHIPS: A pair of Colts were feeling under the weather last night. While captain Luke Bignell managed to dress, Ryan Cardwell was a no go. “He was sick,” Miller said of the winger. “We shut him down and sent him back to the hotel by himself. Hopefully he can get a good night sleep.” Bignell played through it, but Miller held his veteran back late. “I didn’t use him in overtime because he wasn’t feeling it. He had not energy.” The Colts are spending the night in Erie, before heading back across the border mid-afternoon… Clarke ran his point streak to five games (3-7-10)…Overager Aidan Brown was scoreless had his 10-game streak come to an end.
banner image of Arturs Silovs via Terry Wilson/OHL Images