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Battalion need the 7th man

‘We need it as loud as possible’

Oh, remember the early days of the North Bay Battalion.  

OHL hockey was all the rage in 2014 when the Battalion defeated the Oshawa Generals in the Eastern Conference Finals before falling to the Guelph Storm in the OHL finals that spring. Making the OHL finals in the first year in North Bay was kind of a big deal.  

Did you know that memorable spring the North Bay Battalion attracted 44,402 fans to 11 home games in the Ontario Hockey League playoffs, an average of 4,037 per game.

Fast forward to 2022, and the Troops are back in the OHL Eastern Conference Finals, this time against the mighty Hamilton Bulldogs. It's the first time the Battalion have been this far since falling in six games to Ken Appleby's Generals in 2015. In games one and two that year the attendance eclipsed the 4200 mark each night. 

But on a soggy Wednesday night for game three, the North Bay Battalion, looking for an edge created by the 7th man, played in front of a crowd of only about 2400. 

Ryan Oulahen, the Battalion coach, had a tough time holding back the disappointment that comes with a smaller than expected playoff crowd. 

“We’re in the conference finals here,” Oulahen noted after a 6-4 loss Wednesday night at Memorial Gardens.

“It’s a Friday night in North Bay. Let’s pack this building.

“We need it as loud as possible. You can tell the players feed off it. When you hear the ‘Go, Troops, go’ at the beginning of the game, we came out with a better start. I believe that’s a big factor. In the second period we had really good momentum going there, and it was the crowd.

“It was on our side, so we’d like to see a big crowd here on Friday. We think it can help us.”

It's no secret North Bay can be a fickle sports town, but it is also a knowledgeable one.  

Was the knowledgeable fan wary of going to game three knowing the Hamilton Bulldogs were up 2-0 in the series; outscored the Troops 10-2 combined in the first two games in Hamilton? Or was a wet and miserable weekday game?  

Oulahen speaks about getting one per cent better every game.  

The Troops would like attendance to be better tonight and maybe turn back the attendance clock. 

“We were better tonight, clearly better, than we have been throughout the series, so we’re making strides,” Oulahen said after game three where the Troops fell 3-0 in the series and face elimination Friday night. 

“I think the biggest message for us is we need to be just a little better in every single area. We need to be one percent better on our stick battles, one percent better finishing plays, one percent better all over the ice in different areas.”

The Troops hope those extra few attackers in the stands will help make the difference and force a game five in Hamilton on Sunday. 

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Chris Dawson

About the Author: Chris Dawson

Chris Dawson has been with since 2004. He has provided up-to-the-minute sports coverage and has become a key member of the BayToday news team.
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