The dynamic duo was back together again, but they could not solve the case of the determined Hunter Jones between the pipes.
Matthew Struthers, fresh off serving a four-game suspension, was back centering the top line with Justin Brazeau and Bradley Chenier.
However, his return to the lineup didn’t produce the results the North Bay Battalion were looking for in a 4-1 loss to the Peterborough Petes on Thursday night.
Jones made 30 stops on 31 chances, en route to a fourth straight Peterborough win. It’s the third straight game he has started in which he’s faced at least 30 shots, and he’s given up three goals combined in the process.
“He’s a very good goalie,” said Acting Head Coach Adam Dennis of Jones after the game.
“If you’re not in his face, if you’re taking away his eyes, if you’re not going to get those secondary opportunities, then he’s going to have nights like that,” says Dennis.
“He’s too good not to.”
Jones has started in all but two of the 27 games the Petes have played this season. The 2019 NHL draft hopeful is working towards hearing his name called, every time he steps on the ice. He has earned a 15-10-0-0 record, a 2.64 Goals Against Average and the third best save percentage at .924, following Thursday night’s win at the Peterborough Memorial Centre.
The Petes (16-11-0-0) themselves are starting to get hot with a 7-3-0-0 record over their last ten games, including two 4-1 wins over North Bay this season.
It wasn’t the way the Battalion we’re hoping to start the road trip, that will take them into Kingston on Friday night and then Ottawa on Sunday afternoon.
Dennis says the game came down to his side being outworked during the game, “I really don’t think we competed enough to get a win.”
“I thought that they were more willing to go to the hard areas. I thought they were more willing to drive to the net. And they were more willing to get those second opportunities.”
Dennis added, “I think that sums up the game and why we’re on the short end of it.”
The Battalion (10-13-1-1) have been on the short end of the outcomes over the last two weekends, winning just once in the seven games since November 15. It is most surprising as it comes on the heels of North Bay having a great month of October, in which they compiled a 7-3-0-0 record in 10 games, but have dropped to 3-6-2 in this third month of the year.
The Troops got out to a nice start, keeping pace with a Petes team that tried to take advantage of the shortened neutral zone and wonky end boards which give the truest definition of a hometown bounce.
Scoreless through the first 18:00, it looked as if the two teams would head to the locker room, discussing how they could break the goose egg. But instead, Brady Hinz (9) came down the left wing side and on the backhand sent it past Battalion Goaltender Christian Propp at 18:23. Propp was starting his third straight game after going 1-1 last weekend. A one-goal deficit would not have been too detrimental, but 28 seconds later, the Petes would strike again with Seymon Der-Arguchintsev (3) expanding the Petes' lead to 2-0. It would be the 11th time this season the Troops would trail by a goal after 20 minutes, and going into the game they sported a record of 1-7-0-1 in those contests.
Dennis reflected on the team’s lack of ability to come from behind after 20 minutes of play, “I think we need to be a little bit more mentally tough. It’s a long game and as quickly as you get down, you can get right back into it, in the same sense.”
North Bay tried to do just that in the second period, as Adam McMaster (11) whipped a backhanded shot over the glove side of Jones to cut the lead in half at 5:27 of the second period. McMaster now has 11 points in 11 games in November and has surpassed his previous career high of nine goals in a season.
That would be the only offence North Bay could produce against a very stingy netminder in Jones.
Cameron Butler (6) would regain the three-goal lead for the Petes at 11:47 of the second period and Erik Cermak would cement things with his fourth of the year at 15:24 of the third.
The lineup has been in a bit of a transition with new guys coming into the fold and others coming back from injuries and/or suspension.
As mentioned, Struthers was back in the lineup and Dennis talked about the line shuffling over the last couple of games, “well there’s competition now so that’s a good thing.”
And with Daniel Walker due back on Friday in Kingston and the looming possibility of Luke Burghardt returning to the Troops, Dennis says the players will have to prove they want to be in the lineup, “if you want to play in the top six you’re going to have to earn it.”
North Bay will be looking to earn their way as a group back into the win column on Friday night against a Frontenacs squad that has signalled they are in a rebuilding season.
They recently traded Dallas Stars prospect Jason Robertson, along with Jacob Paquette to the Niagara IceDogs. The Fronts are 7-19-1-0 on the year and sit dead last in the Eastern Conference. It’s a game the Troops will be hoping to build some momentum on as they head into the nation's capital on Sunday to go up against a 67’s squad that is undefeated in regulation in its last 22 games.