On a delayed power play in overtime the Sarnia Sting used the extra attacker to their full advantage and crashed the crease forcing the puck past the Battalion goal line for the Game Winner, sending the Battalion to their eighth straight loss. And while the 5-4 overtime defeat does, well, Sting, the Troops did manage to overcome three separate one goal deficits and get the lone point, snapping their undefeated streak in regulation games that had expanded to seven games.
Still the tone after the game was that of disappointment from Battalion interim head coach Ryan Oulahen.
“After taking some time to think about it and watching some of the goals, it was once again our compete level and our effort that disappoints us once again,” he said after the game.
Coming off a Sunday afternoon 9-1 loss on the road against Ottawa, the hope was that the Troops would storm out of the gates, but that wasn’t the case as Oulahen points out, “We could argue the fact that for 55 or 56 minutes we were pretty good but if you have four or five minutes that are just the complete opposite of the effort you need to compete, it won't end well and it’s bad spots in the game. Right in front of our net, we don’t win battles, we don’t clear the puck, we don’t sense danger and that’s the most frustrating part. We didn’t deserve to win at all.”
Sarnia opened the scoring on a goal by Nolan Burke (3) at 9:18 that came on a two on one rush by Same Bitten and Theo Hill who dropped the puck to Burke as the trailing player and he shot the puck from the high slot to open the scoring 1-0.
The second period became the Mitchell Russell show as the third-year forward put up three points (1+2) to not only tie the game twice but, give the Battalion their first lead of the night.
Russell's first point of the period came at 5:55 when Luke Moncada started a rush towards the Sarnia net and dropped the puck to top of the left side circle and Russell sent in a laser that found the back of the net to make it a 1-1 game.
Shortly after Joseph Mack (5) regained the lead for Sarnia at 6:38, but at 9:43 Moncada and Russell switched spots and it was Russell finding Moncada in the same area in the offensive zone and the Captain released his own blast that got past North Bay Native Ben Gaudreau, tying the game at 2-2. Gaudreau was making his OHL debut in his hometown and would go on to make 28 saves, earning his 7th career win in his 20th Game Played.
Russell then came in on the right side a minute later and looked to be blocked out from generating a chance, but he moved around a diving defender and spotted Paul Christopoulos streaking in on the far side. Russell put it right onto the rookie d-mans tape and he deflected it home giving North Bay a 3-2 lead at 10:53 and Christopoulos picked up his fourth career goal.
But North Bay didn’t get out of the period with the lead intact. At 18:26 Jacob Perreault (32) brought the puck into the Battalion zone untouched and from just inside the blue line he sent a low shot towards the net the got by Cameron Lamour to even things up once again at 3-3.
Oulahen says he liked the effort from the Russell, Moncada and Harrison Caines line. He says, “we liked our second period, for the most part, it was really strong. I also liked the makeup of our lines, I thought it gave us more depth.”
He added, “maybe if we can keep that going that will be a positive to take out of this. Just depth wise it gave us three good lines, and the fourth line was ok. But the guys we mentioned (Russell, Moncada and Coe) those are the guys who wanted to win tonight, they weren’t the issue.”
The Troops went with Kyle Jackson on left wing, Shane Bulika at centre and Brandon Coe on the right wing and Oulahen says he thought they competed well throughout the night. That was the line that tied the game once again for the home side in the third period.
Bulitka shot a puck that was redirected by Jackson (7) at 3:44 to put everything back to square one with a 4-4 game. However, that followed a Sarnia goal by Ty Voit (6) that was scored just 43 seconds into the third period to initially give Sarnia a 4-3 lead in the opening stages of the final frame.
At 52 games into the season (26 now with Oulahen at the helm) and the Battalion find themselves teetering back and forth between a group that is learning and improving from their mistakes and a group that isn’t aware of the mistakes they make. As Oulahen points out, they have to remember they are the youngest team in the league but right now they need to show signs of taking that next step.
“it’s guys that we’re giving a lot of minutes to," he said.
"It’s not like it’s players who aren’t getting a lot of playing time. It’s significant pieces that have been playing since day one and it’s the overall effort and overall mentality that we have to focus on and narrow down here over this last stretch of the season. We need to see it get better, we need to see it improve now.”
Both teams had just one power play opportunity in the game where they went 0/1 each. North Bay (11-38-3) outshot the Sting 32-21, including 16-5 in the third period. The Battalion will have the day off on Friday and get set up for a divisional matchup on Saturday in Barrie.