Quinton Byfield showed Thursday night in Barrie why he’s one of the top prospects for the 2020 NHL Entry Draft.
The second-ranked player on the NHL Central Scouting’s Mid-term Rankings scored the equalizer early in the third period and then fired home the game-winner just 31 seconds into overtime to help the Sudbury Wolves rally past the Barrie Colts, 3-2, at Sadlon Arena.
The powerful six-foot-four, 215-pound centre, who helped Canada win a gold medal at the 2020 World Junior Hockey Championships earlier this month in the Czech Republic, pulled off the comeback with a pair of impressive solo efforts.
After Victor Hadfield put the Colts ahead 4:03 in the third, the OHL’s first overall pick in 2018 went to work a little more than three minutes later. When the puck hopped over the stick of Colts rookie Brandt Clarke at centre ice, the hulking power forward pounced on the loose puck, walked in alone and avoided the poke check by outstretched Barrie goalie Arturs Silovs before wiring it upstairs.
On the winner, Byfield waited for Clarke to go down and then cut to the front of the net before ripping it over the left pad of Silovs.
“If you give him an inch, he’ll take it and we talked about that before the game,” Miller said of the focus on the Newmarket native. “I thought we did a great job on him early not giving him much time and space, but you just knew there’d be a time. Even if you fumble the puck, you got to know what time he’s on the ice and what’s around him.
“Obviously on the winner one of our guys fell coming back, but even the play at that point, a desperation play, you got to know who you’re playing against. You kind of drop-down to take something away and it’s in the back of your net. I thought we did a good job on him most of the night.”
Looking for their fourth-straight win, the Colts took the lead when Hadfield, moving back to the point with Nathan Allensen (suspension) and Matthew Sredl (shoulder) out of the lineup, let go a floater from the blue line that found its way through traffic and past Barrie native and Sudbury goaltender Mitchell Weeks.
Star players take over at key times and that’s exactly what Byfield did after that.
Still, Barrie (19-21-3-2) managed to get an important point.
“He’s definitely one of the best players in the league and we tried to shut him down out there,” Hadfield said. “It’s tough to just get one point there than the win, but we got to keep going this weekend and hopefully get the next four points.”
Jack Thompson opened the scoring midway through the first, with Sudbury (25-21-1-0) on the power play, when he hammered a one-time feed from Kalle Loponen at the point past Silovs.
The Colts evened things up with a power-play blast of their own just 37 seconds into the second. Evan Vierling found an open Tyson Foerster at the point and the big winger drove one past a screened Weeks for his team-leading 27th of the season.
“Overall I can’t be upset with them,” Miller said of his young team. “We got a point and I think we should have had two. A couple of mistakes and it’s in the back of your net. You got one of the best players in the league out there and he’ll make you pay every time.”
The Colts are now tied for sixth in the Eastern Conference standings and can gain some important ground against teams trailing them as their busy three-in-three weekend continues.
The Colts hit the road to take on the Niagara IceDogs Friday night, before returning home Saturday night to host the Kingston Frontenacs. Barrie sits four points ahead Niagara and 11 points ahead of the Frontenacs, who are trying to get back in the playoff picture.
“It’s a big game for us,” Miller said. “A big weekend for us, actually. We got to take them one game at a time and just get ourselves ready. I can’t be upset with the guys right now. I think they’re bringing what they need to bring.
“I think they need to shoot more and defend a little better, but we’ll clean that up with some video Friday and get ready for Niagara.”
Game time at the Meridian Centre is 7 p.m.
ICE CHIPS: Silovs was outstanding once again, making 38 saves on 41 shots…Hadfield has found a home up front this season, but he’s provided some key minutes filling in on the blue line. “I haven’t played defence for a couple of months, so it was definitely a change,” he said. “I felt comfortable back there tonight, so we’ll see what happens back there this weekend.” …The Colts killed off a key four-minute Sudbury power play with the game tied 1-1 midway through the second. “That was a big up for us, killing that thing off,” Miller said…Sredl is close to returning, says Miller, though it likely won’t be until next weekend… Allensen has sat two games and won’t be back until next Saturday’s contest at home against Sudbury.
feature image of Quinton Byfield courtesy Terry Wilson/OHL Images