It was two goals in a span of 13 seconds which allowed the Peterborough Petes to skate out of North Bay with a 5-2 win over the Battalion.
The two teams were neck and neck for the first 55 minutes of the contest. But Toronto Maple Leafs prospect Nick Robertson found the back of the net at 15:07 of the third on a rush that was started by two other NHL prospects in Semyon Der-Arguchintsev (Maple Leafs) and Declan Chisolm (Winnipeg Jets).
Right off the ensuing face-off the Petes gained control of the zone, crashed the crease and rookie Mason McTavish dug the puck underneath Battalion Goaltender Joe Vrbetic to give the visiting side a 4-2 lead with just 4:40 left to play. It was the second goal of the game for McTavish and fourth of the season to give him six points through four contests to start his OHL career.
Despite the loss, it was another valiant effort by a young Troops squad that is continually showing signs of improvement with every game they play, despite a 1-4-0-0 start. Not to mention it was a tremendous bounce-back game for a club coming off an 11-3 loss their last time out against the Sudbury Wolves.
“I liked our first two periods,” says Battalion Head Coach Stan Butler. “I thought we played pretty well, but when we lost Rose for the game, that really hurt going into the third period.”
Butler referred to an awkward play at the end of the second period that involved Robertson and Battalion defenceman Simon Rose. With the Petes already on the power play, Robertson tried to come down the middle to gain entry into the zone. Rose went to block him, swung his arm up and the two looked to go down pretty innocently, but the aftermath resulted in a holding penalty on Rose that was carried over to begin the third and Rose himself never came back out to play after the second intermission.
“Rose got hurt and that put us down to five D and with the defense we have this year, we don’t really have those big horses back there that we can give a lot of minutes to,” says Butler.
That meant giving extra ice time to rookies James Mayotte and Paul Christopoulos who filled in admirably on the back end.
“I think our young guys are doing well,” says Butler. “I’m pretty happy that they battle hard. It’s definitely a process and we have to get better. We knew it wasn’t going to be easy, we want to keep playing these kids and trend upwards and the only way we’re going to do that is continually playing these guys. The reality is we only have two 19-year-olds.”
You have to wonder what the result might have been if they were able to play the capable and reliable defender Rose in that third period, because to that point the Petes were being denied at every opportunity, including an overall 0/5 night on the power play, that has several 19-year-olds on the special teams unit, who were ranked 2nd in the league coming into the game.
Butler talked about his team's penalty kill and says, “Well it was interesting in how we did that. We kind of played a soft box, let them move the puck around and hope that they miss. But they are a talented team, I think by the end of the year, they are going to be a team to be reckoned with. They are built to win this year.”
Going even further on the back end, it was the third straight home start for rookie Joe Vrbetic and the Troops goaltender managed to stave off 41 of 45 shots that came his way.
“He battled hard,” says Butler. “I felt bad for him on the third and fourth goal. Especially the fourth one when he makes the initial save and we have three guys who are standing around Mason McTavish and he outworks them and puts the puck in the net. I know we don’t have killers back there but, you know you have to stick and you have to win some battles too.”
The Petes opened the scoring in the first period on J.R. Avon’s first career goal at 9:03, banking in a rebound off a shot from Matt McNamara that Vrbetic kicked out a little too far into the slot.
North Bay answered back at 17:03 when Las Vegas Golden Knights prospect Mason Primeau got his second of the season when he deflected in a shot from the point by Braden Henderson.
The Petes regained the lead at 7:40 of the second period when McTavish got his first of the game just as the power play was expiring, but on their next man advantage, it was Luke Moncada taking advantage by scoring his first of the season on a short-handed opportunity. He was set up by Captain Brad Chenier who worked to get the puck out of the zone and then found Moncada with space down the ice and Moncada held a defender off his back while getting the puck past Petes' goalie Hunter Jones. It was the last one that got through him as he went on to make 29 saves on 31 total shots during the game.
After the two third period goals by the Petes, they rounded out the scoring when Der-Arguchintsev got his first of the year on the empty net at 17:37. Despite just the one goal, Der-Arguchintsev has 10 points on the season already, through just four games.
The Battalion is right back to work on Friday night when they play the Generals in Oshawa.