The North Bay offence broke out in a big way, scoring six goals for the first time since an 8-3 win over the Kingston Frontenacs on October 21st.
But unfortunately for North Bay, the Frontenacs seemed to have taken that loss to heart, as they wound up the eventual winners with a 7-6 defeat in Kingston on Friday night.
North Bay made every effort to stay in the contest, but the Frontenacs offence managed to be just a step ahead at every turn.
It all came down to the last five minutes of the game. With North Bay down 6-4, Justin Brazeau (25) beat rookie netminder Ryan Dugas with a backhanded goal to get the Battalion to within a goal at 15:44 of the third.
North Bay pulled their own goaltender with just under two minutes to play, and Brazeau had Dugas beat again on the glove side with a shot from the slot, but the puck hit the post and bounced back out to the top of the zone. Paul Larabie picked up the rebound, skated down the ice and scored the second goal of his career by depositing the puck into the empty net, regaining the two-goal advantage 7-4 for the home side.
Off the ensuing face-off, North Bay again pulled the goaltender and it resulted in Mason Primeau (8) getting a rebound off the end boards right to his stick and burying his third of the game with just 12 seconds remaining on the clock.
But it was too little too late as North Bay ran out of time, and found themselves in the loss column for the seventh time in eight games.
“It’s frustrating. I’m sure everyone in that room is frustrated right now,” says Assistant Coach Scott Wray.
“We got the goals tonight, we scored a short-handed goal, we scored a power play goal, a 6-on-5 goal, we scored a lot of goals in a lot of ways, but we still came up short.”
The second short-handed goal of the season was also courtesy of Primeau. It occurred at the 8:42 mark of the third and it brought the Battalion to within two goals at that point after Billy Constantinou (5) made it 6-3 off within the opening six minutes of the third. Primeau’s shorty was set up by Brad Chenier going into the zone on a breakaway, and after Dugas made the initial save he was out of position for the rebound opportunity that came to Primeau.
A silver lining out of the game was that Primeau netted his first hat trick as a member of the North Bay Battalion.
“He’s done a good job, scoring a couple of goals since he’s been here,” says Wray.
“We just need other guys to follow suit and it’s just one of those things where you have to keep your head down and work.”
The Battalion was on the penalty kill about half-way through due to a fighting major and instigator penalty were given to Daniel Walker. It was his first game back after serving a five-game suspension, and it was Walker dropping the gloves with Matt Hotchkiss that seemed to spark the Troops mini-rally from there on.
“We had a little bit of a lull in that second period and when Walks got into that tilt it really woke up the legs,” says Wray.
This should have been the most winnable game for the Troops. Going up against a Kingston (8-19-1-0) squad that had recently signalled a move towards the future by trading Dallas Stars prospect Jason Robertson to the Niagara IceDogs, a team that had won just once in it’s last five games, a team that had given up 22 goals in the last three games combined, but they were a determined team on Friday night at the Leon’s Centre.
They jumped out to a 1-0 lead just 1:54in as Matt Hotchkiss scored his fifth of the season.
The Troops have gotten into a bad habit lately of letting the other team get ahead near the beginning of the game and Wray acknowledge that after the defeat, “we just can’t give up a goal early on.”
He added “we can’t give up a goal on the first shot of the game. We need to really bear down and take care of our first ten minutes, and we should be better then.”
North Bay didn’t go into the locker room trailing after one in this game. Primeau made sure of that scoring his first of the game at the 10:51 point of the opening period. Assisting on his goal was Cole Cameron and Pacey Schlueting. For the latter, it was his first recorded point in the OHL – a positive sign for the 2018 first round draft pick.
Kingston regained the lead with Brett Nuemann getting his first of three in the period at 2:30.
The teams would trade goals once more before the end of the second frame.
Nick King (3) found the back of the net on the power play at 10:55 – but Neumann (18) would not be outdone, making the hats fly onto the ice at 13:40, giving the home side a 5-3 advantage going into the third.
The Battalion look to rebound against the top team in the conference when the suit up again on Sunday afternoon in Ottawa. The 67’s have not lost in regulation (as of Friday night) in their last 22 games, sporting an 18-0-3-1 record over that span. You can catch that game on Country-600 CKAT, with the broadcast time at 1:55pm.