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McIvor shuts down Sudbury as North Bay goes up 2-0 in series

Behind a second straight five goal game, goaltender Mike McIvor backstops the Battalion with 35 saves in 5-1 win over Sudbury

Mike McIvor continues to cement himself as the pleasant surprise of the post-season as the 18-year-old backup netminder made 35 saves for the Battalion in a 5-1 North Bay win in game two, to give the Troops a 2-0 series lead over the Sudbury Wolves.  

McIvor was thrust into a starting role after Winnipeg Jets prospect Dom DiVincentiis was only able to play the first full game of the playoffs due to injury. In his five starts (including three against Kingston from round one), McIvor seems to just keep getting stronger game by game and he has stifled the Wolves offense over the first two games of this second round series, limiting them to three goals on 65 shots combined.  

But it’s not just McIvor who has stepped up with a big name missing from the starting lineup – as the Battalion forwards have picked up the slack without their regular season leading scorer Anthony Romani in the lineup, injured during the first period of game one in the first round.  

In game one against Sudbury, it was Andrew LeBlanc scoring his first two goals of the post-season in the 5-2 win. On Saturday evening in game two, Jacob Therrien and Ihnat Pazii chipped in offensively around the more familiar goal scorers in Sandis Vilmanis, Justin Ertel and Owen Van Steensel.  

It’s going to take this kind of effort from the entire lineup the deeper they go into the post-season and the Battalion, with a 2-0 lead, now head to Sudbury for what will no doubt be an intense atmosphere. But if the Troops play to their strengths and take advantage of mistake as they did in the first two games, the Battalion will set themselves up for success.  

Looking to set the tone early on Saturday night, the Battalion got on the board just 24 seconds into the game. Vilmanis popped in his second goal of the post-season off what initially looked like a botched play. Ertel had the puck in the circle and went to shoot but the puck trickled away from his stick into the high slot. Backing him up was Vilmanis who pounced on the loose puck and fired it through traffic to put the home side up 1-0.  

Later in the frame, Therrien (2) took advantage of a nice defensive play by Ty Nelson, who made a hard poke check on Sudbury’s Nathan Villeneuve on the near side boards. The move by Nelson knocked the puck free up to the North Bay blue line where Therrien took it, and took off, racing down the ice untested and went one-on-one with goaltender Marcus Vandenberg. Therrien came in on the left-wing side and shot high, beating Vandenberg over the shoulder putting North Bay ahead 2-0 at 14:14. 

The Wolves looked to retaliate in the second period outshooting the Battalion 14-11, but McIvor turned aside everything that came his way in a penalty-filled affair. Nine penalties combined were assessed between the two teams, but no offense could take advantage and they headed to the locker rooms with the score still 2-0.  

The Battalion built up their lead in the third.  

Ertel deflected a point shot from Tnias Mathurin (who had two assists on the night) and the puck went over the head of Vandenberg and landed behind him and by the time the Sudbury netminder found it, it was over the goal line and Ertel was celebrating his fifth goal of the playoffs at 4:53 of the third.  

Less than two minutes later Pazzii (2) had control of the puck in the neutral zone and skated down the left side with nobody near him. He crossed the blue line and snapped a shot at the net that handcuffed Vandenberg putting the Battalion ahead 4-0.  

Down by four the Wolves found themselves on the power play in the later stages of the third and pulled Vandenberg for a 6-on-4 attack, but Van Steensel (3) managed to get the puck in the empty net for a 5-0 Troops lead at 13:51.  

The lone blemish against the Battalion was a late goal by the Wolves at 15:57 by Kocha Delic (4) on another power play chance for the visitors.  

North Bay will make their way down Highway 17 to resume this second round series with game three taking place on Tuesday evening in Sudbury.  

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Matt Sookram

About the Author: Matt Sookram

Matthew Sookram is a Canadore College graduate. He has lived and worked in North Bay since 2009 covering different beats; everything from City Council to North Bay Battalion.
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