Published February 18, 2023

Vierling keeps up torrid scoring pace with hat trick in Colts' 6-3 win over Hamilton

Marty Williamson is two wins away from tying Dale Hawerchuk as the Colts all-time winningest coach
Barrie Colts

Evan Vierling is doing what he can to win hockey games for the Barrie Colts and draw the attention of NHL teams.

Boy, is he ever.

The unsigned overager continued his sizzling pace of late, recording a hat trick and adding an assist for good measure to power the Colts to a comfortable 6-3 win over the Hamilton Bulldogs, Friday night, at the FirstOntario Centre.

Vierling's scoreless run of nine games that ended in early February is a distant past. The skilled centre has all but left it in his dust.

Two nights after posting a pair of markers and three points against Niagara, Vierling added his first three-goal effort of the season and now has eight goals in the seven games since ending his goal-scoring skid.

"He sure is and he didn't even play the third period. I kind of shut him down," said Williamson when asked if his forward is red hot right now. "It was pretty impressive. It was a good game.

"He's getting to the dirty areas and making all the plays in front of the net for us."

Vierling, as usual, credited his linemates for putting him in position to score goals.

"We're working well as a team right now and we just want to keep that going," said the 20-year-old centre who now has 27 goals and 65 points in just 46 games to 17th overall in league scoring.

Drafted by the New York Rangers in the fifth round (127 overall) in the 2020 NHL Draft, Vierling went unsigned at last year's deadline. The free agent remains determined to land a pro contract.

"He sure is and I couldn't be prouder of him," said Williamson. "He's playing physical for us, he's battling on faceoffs. He's got a pretty complete game and he's got to be considered one of the top overagers in the league and one of the top forwards and he should be signed.

"So, I'm hoping for him."

For Vierling, all he can do is play his game.

"Obviously I want to keep playing at a higher level," he said. "So, I just to keep chipping away and let everything fall into place."

Tai York, Cooper Matthews and Callum Chisholm also scored for Barrie (30-14-6-2), which moved just four points behind the North Bay Battalion for top spot in the Central Division standings.

The two teams meet back in Barrie Saturday night and while it's a huge game on the schedule, Williamson is happy with how his team focused on the job at hand this week.

After a dominating 5-1 win Wednesday against Niagara, the Colts continued their excellent road work with another effort where they controlled play for most of the contest jumping out to a 2-0 lead after the first period on goals by Tai York and Chisholm.

Second-period goals Sahil Panwar and Nick Lardis twice got the Bulldogs within, but Vierling scored twice and the Colts never looked back.

They now have just one regulation loss in their last 10 games.

"We saw North Bay lost to Erie (5-3 on Thursday) and maybe they were thinking about us a little bit," said Williamson. "I heard the broadcast of the game and they talked about our game (Saturday) as a big game and maybe that filtered to them. We didn't even mention North Bay and we dedicated a whole practice just to Hamilton to get the guys real dialed in for this game and I thought we did.

"There was no kind of talk about anything other than these two points and that was what was most important. It's the consistency we're trying to get with this group."

Hamilton's Adrian Rebelo scored with 1:44 remaining to make it appear closer than it was.

"We got the goals that we talked about," said Williamson. "Our assistant coaches work hard on the pre-scouts and there's a few things that we wanted to get done and I thought they got it, and the players did what they were told to get it done.

"That's a real good sign for our team going forward."

Friday also marked the return of Matthews and Chisholm to the lineup and they didn't waste much time making an impact.

Matthews, who had been out since taking a hit from behind in Flint back on Jan. 28, had a goal and assist. Chisholm also had a goal and two points after being out since a game in Ottawa back on Jan. 19.

"I thought they were both really good for me," said Williamson of the wingers who both returned on the fourth line with Cole Beaudoin centring them. "It adds length to our lineup and it allows us to play with a lot more energy when you play with four lines. There was a lot of good things about their games.

"They've been out for a while so we'll see how the back-to-backs go, but I sure was happy with them tonight."

The Colts can move just two points behind North Bay atop the division when the two teams meet Saturday night at Sadlon Arena.

"We're not far behind them, so we got to get ready to go," said Vierling, who along with his teammates dropped a 4-2 decision in North Bay last Sunday.

Williamson believes his team will be ready. North Bay has won four of five meetings, two of those in overtime.

"Obviously there's tweaks and things you want to do a little bit different," he said. "You got to pay attention to a Ty Nelson and some of these guys they have like Matvey Petrov. Really it's how we forecheck and how we have enough people back and don't give up odd-man rushes that will dictate the game.

"Then it's about winning battles and this group has been doing a good job of that, so we feel that we'll play well tomorrow."

Game time Saturday is 7:30 p.m.

ICE CHIPS: After Friday's win, Williamson is now just two wins (303) away from tying Dale Hawerchuk (305) as the Colts all-time winningest coach. . . Ethan Cardwell had three assists and is just a single point behind Vierling for the team scoring lead. Brandt Clarke had two helpers for Barrie. . . Goalie Ben West made 26 saves to pick up his eighth win for Barrie. Matteo Drobac stopped 23 of 29 shots for Hamilton. . . Lardis continued his hot hand since being acquired from the Bulldogs at the trade deadline. He now has 16 goals and 29 points in just 16 games. . . Artur Cholach played in his 100 career game.

Banner image via Collin Jennings

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