It’s a game where you have to shrug your shoulders and accept fact that there are still plenty of growing pains the North Bay Battalion are going to experience this season.
The Ottawa 67’s showed exactly why they are a team that believes they can win an OHL Championship and compete for a Memorial Cup while the North Bay Battalion are pushing through this rebuilding season, dropping their seventh in a row in a 9-1 loss on Sunday afternoon at TD Place in the nation’s capital.
The 67’s jumped out to a 5-0 lead after the first period and rode that momentum the rest of the way. The opening tally coming early on at 2:51 on the power play as Austen Keating (25) got the puck off the end boards and put it past Joe Vrbetic on the near side post. North Bay played very well over the next ten minutes, despite not recording a shot they shut down the neutral zone and made clean entries very difficult for Ottawa, unfortunately Ottawa did the same at their own blue line.
It wasn’t until the 12:38 mark that Alec Belanger (10) deposited the puck in the back of the net after he found it just sitting behind Vrbetic on the blue paint after the North Bay netminder made the initial save off a Jack Quinn shot. The goal gave the home side a 2-0 lead and by the time the first twenty minutes had expired Quinn had scored a goal (44) at 13:37, assisted on another (Joseph Garreffa’s 27th at 15:29 and was well on his way to finishing the game with a six point night (1+5). The only goal he wasn’t involved in during the first period was a Kevin Bahl (6) tally at 13:49.
Battalion Assistant Coach Scott Wray says the game had moments where the younger group really competed well for the Battalion but they just didn’t have anything break their way.
“That first power play goal was pretty fluky off the end wall, they know their rink really well, the boards have been the same since I’ve played in the league but I thought our young guys were pretty good for us. The Josh Currie, Chris Stevens and Chad Denault were generating a lot of O-Zone time and Ty Hollett came up and in his OHL debut he was pretty steady. Not our best but not our worse, just doing a good job of being physical and being quick and keeping it simple.”
However, what wasn’t so great was the amount of time North Bay spent killing penalties and by the end of the first period the 67’s were 3/3 on the power play. “When you’re chasing the puck a lot and down in shots (19-0 before North Bay recorded a shot) you’re working so hard to get the puck back you end up taking a hooking call or a tripping call because your mind stops working. Physically you’re working hard but you’re not working smart and that’s what happens,” says Wray. And coming into the game North Bay knew it was going to be a difficult night if they got into penalty trouble, going up against the leagues best Power Play unit.
“They have a potent power play,” says Wray.
“They have a lot of no brainer plays that they just make where the other guy is always there. It’s amazing to watch the chemistry they have on both of those power play units.” The Ottawa PP struck again in the second period at 7:54 with Noel Hoefenmayer getting his second point and first goal of the night, stacking the stats for the 67’s power play that finished the evening with a 4/5 performance and Hoefenmayer’s goal made it 7-0 for Ottawa. That goal followed a Teddy Sawyer (2) goal at 3:50 that made it past Cameron Lamour who came in relief to start the second period for North Bay. Ottawa added to their lead getting goals from Austen Keating (26) and a short-handed goal from Mitchell Hoelscher (28) at 13:15 and 15:06 respectively. With the score 9-0 in the third, the Battalion finally got on the scoreboard when Brandon Coe (18) finished off a play on the rush that started when Captain Luke Moncada sent the puck into the neutral zone to Harrison Caines on the left-wing boards. He came in over the blue line and set up Coe with a pass that he deflected home just 58 seconds into the third.
The Troops will look to snap their seven-game slide when they host Sarnia on Thursday evening at Memorial Gardens. It will be a matchup of the two teams at the bottom of the Eastern and Western Conferences with North Bay sitting at 11-38-2-0 in the East and Sarnia at 17-28-5-1 in the West.