Justin Brazeau sent Troops fans home happy Thursday night as the Captain put up a hat trick, including the winner, as the North Bay Battalion defeated the Flint Firebirds 5-4 in overtime.
Brazeau finished off some hard work along the half wall during overtime. Nick King fought off two defenders battling for the puck, which was eventually picked up by Bradley Chenier who fed a cross ice pass to Justin Brazeau who ripped a high wrist shot over the shoulder of bewildered Firebirds netminder Emanuel Vella who finished with 35 saves.
“I think they are a better team than their record says,” a relieved Adam Dennis said moments after Brazeau’s goal as the Troops battled back from a 4-2 deficit to force the extra session.
“They have some good players and I thought that their goalie played pretty good today. We need to play like we did in the third period every game from here on out to have any success. We need to play desperate. Tonight we didn’t play a full 60 but we were rewarded for it.”
Brazeau added an assist to go with his three goals for a four point night. His third of the game (115th of OHL career) moved him past Cody Hodgson for third all time in Battalion goal scoring behind Barclay Goodrow (127) and Wojtek Wolski (130).
“It’s pretty special,” Brazeau remarked when told he had passed Hodgson.
“To pass him, it means a lot. From where I started, to where I’ve come now...I never would have believed this would happen. It’s nice, but I need to keep going here and help our team out.”
“I think it puts into context what he has done this year and the past four years,” added Dennis.
“Cody Hodgson is an incredible player and for Justin to do that, it really shows the type of season and career he has had.”
Luke Burghardt also quietly put up a four-point night (1G 3A) and since Christmas has really shown us the Burghardt of old.
“It’s always nice getting points but the win felt pretty nice tonight for sure,” ever the team player Burghardt said when asked about his performance.
“It’s nice to have him back,” Brazeau added about his linemate.
“The first couple of games was a feeling out process. He had been off for the better part of six months and Burgie has been Burgie in the second half.”
“He just keeps coming and coming,” Adam Dennis said about Burghardt.
“His game is really coming along. I feel like a broken record, saying the same thing again but he was told he had to retire. Your mindset changes, it’s not like he was coming back from an injury or a contract holdout. He has worked extremely hard to get to where he is and we are really happy to see him rewarded.”
Ethan Keppen led the visitors offensively with a pair of goals as the Firebirds held leads of 1-0, 2-1, 3-2 and 4-2 in the contest.
Christian Propp turned away 27 shots to earn the overtime victory between the pipes for the Troops.
The Battalion will enjoy a rare off weekend before heading to Sudbury next Wednesday to take on the Wolves.