For the second straight night the North Bay Battalion showed that despite their youth they are going to compete night in and night out and not make anything easy on the opponents. However, they are still looking to put it all together and secure two points, something they weren’t able to do in a 5-1 loss to the Oshawa Generals.
The Troops fell behind 2-0 in the first period and Assistant Coach Adam Dennis says, off the bat it looked like the team was feeling the effects of a three and a half hour bus ride.
“I thought the bus legs were definitely there to start, they got the jump on us,”
Nico Gross scored his first of the season at 14:09 and that was followed up by a Ty Tullio (3) marker one minute later as Oshawa also out shot the Troops 17-8 in the opening 20 minutes. The Battalion did battle back and made the game difficult for Oshawa who are now 5-0-0-0 on the year. The Troops killed off four of the five penalties they took and limited the Generals to 25 shots over the final two periods with the majority of them coming from outside chances and clearing away loose puck rebounds in front of their crease.
Battalion Goaltender Joe Vrbetic made some stellar saves in that opening frame to keep the game close, something Dennis talked about after the game. He says, “I thought our young goalie held the fort for us pretty good at the start. He is a good young talent, and I think it was a good test for him in his first back to back starts in the OHL. He faced almost 90 shots in the two games and I thought he handled it really well.”
The Battalion cut into the lead in the second period on a play that sparked some déjà vu of what happened 24 hours earlier against the Peterborough Petes.
The Battalion were down by a man, but Brad Chenier forced the puck out of the zone and Luke Moncada (2) was sprung free and managed to bury the puck behind Oshawa Goalie Andrew MacLean at 5:44 of the second.
“When the other teams’ up by a guy they are usually only looking for offence and so if you’re doing the right things and you’re in the right spots you’ll get opportunities to break up plays,” he says.
“That’s when you can capitalize on their mistakes and (on both goals) there were some really nice plays by Chenier and he was able to catch me going up the ice on the odd-man rush, and once we were around the net we just made it happen.”
But the Battalion was never able to cut further into the lead as Oshawa added a goal on the power play at 15:24, another tally by Gross (2) to put them ahead 3-1.
North Bay continued to attack in the third with several good chances against an Oshawa team that was undefeated coming into the game and looked like they were starting to bend as the period wore on.
North Bay pulled the goaltender for the extra attacker in the final minutes of the game, but they weren’t able to hold the puck in the zone and Nico Gross finished his night with his first career hat-trick, getting an empty-net goal at 18:36.
“For our group, we have to find ways to play a full sixty minutes,” says Dennis.
“We need everybody on board and when you’re a young group, you need everyone. We don’t have Justin Brazeau here to take us on his back. We can’t have those letdowns we need all four lines going every night. We need all six D and we need our goalie. It’s important that we come as a group and we weren’t all there today. It’s unfortunate but we are a young team and there is optimism.”
Moncada echoes those statements from his coach and says they are all buying into the idea of working hard every time they are on the ice.
“We just have to get back to the rink on Sunday and get back to practice and work on stuff for our young team. It’s just going to be a process where we have to get better every day,” said the hard-working veteran.
“It’s not at a point where I’m worried,” Moncada added. “And I don’t think anyone else is too worried because we have a really good group of guys in there who are excited to go back out and play again on Thursday.”
It will be a rematch on Thursday as the Troops (1-5-0-0) host the Generals.