The playoff-bound North Bay Battalion continued their winning ways with a 3-1 victory over the Hamilton Bulldogs Thursday night on what was a special evening at the Gardens. Former Centennial players descended on North Bay to see the current OHL team decked out in the black and gold move up to seventh in the Eastern Conference standings.
“It is a big two points for us. It’s nice to get out of eighth place,” assistant coach and former North Bay Centennial Scott Wray said post game.
“When you can go into the playoffs winning games, it’s always a good thing.”
Aside from the Centennials alumni, who were on hand for the ceremonial face-off and to watch the 93/94 OHL Championship banner return to the rafters, there was a strong crowd in attendance.
See related: Battalion will re-hoist Centennials championship banner into the rafters
Hamilton dressed four players on their roster with connections to the area. Zach Roy was the back up goaltender, Jake Gravelle, Payton Vescio and Dylan D’Agostino all grew up around North Bay, with the latter three all playing at one point in time for the AAA Trappers and NOJHL Powassan Voodoos. They were also all part of the starting lineup as well.
The Batta...uhhh, Centennials were represented as well with Pacey Schlueting being raised here and Scott Wray being a former player.
“It’s a true honour,” the soft-spoken first-year defenceman Schlueting said of wearing the Cents colours.
“They were here for a long time and they battled hard, won a championship, and they did all the right things for this city.”
The Centennials would see themselves get on the board first as Justin Brazeau potted his 59th of the season midway through the first. Brazeau would channel his own version of Nick Kypreos and Vitali Yachmenev in the second period when he joined them in the North Bay 60 goal club to give North Bay a 2-0 lead.
The 60th goal even got recognized by TSN Hockey Insider Bob McKenzie who tweeted about Brazeau's milestone tally.
Just over five minutes into the third, Tim Fleischer solved a stingy Christian Propp and got the Bulldogs on the board. Patrick Brown answered 10 seconds later as the Cents cruised their way to the finish line all while riding the nostalgia wave.
Brazeau’s second marker of the game, however, tied Barclay Goodrow for second all-time in franchise goal scoring with 127 markers.
He is also only three goals away from tying Wojtek Wolski for the all-time lead at 130 with two games to go.
“I have been pretty fortunate this year,” Brazeau said shortly after being named the first star of the game.
“I just tried to double my totals from last year into this year and I have. Hopefully, I can keep it going forward in the playoffs.”
“It’s pretty remarkable,” Wray said.
One has to feel for the coaching staff of the team (and journalists) since they need to keep coming up with ways to talk about Brazeau as he keeps hitting milestone after milestone.
“For a guy to score 60 goals, and I don’t care what league you are playing in, but he is playing in the top junior league in the world and he has scored 60. It’s quite the accomplishment and it couldn’t happen to a better guy.”
On top of Brazeau’s milestone, the whole team has seemed to relax and put forward a consistent effort the last two outings, Christian Propp being at the forefront of that turn around as well when the pressure has been its highest all season.
“It’s playoff-like hockey out there,” the big goaltender said, himself named the second star of the game with a 33 save outing, a number that fits the back of his jersey.
“It’s why we work so hard all year, to get into the postseason. We have had a great two games and that is team success all the way. We have a guy getting 60 goals, it certainly makes my job way easier.”
“Christian was good today,” Wray continued.
“He did what he needed to do for us to win the game and that’s exactly what we need out of him.”