Brent Moran made 33 saves and Justin Brazeau and Brett Hargrave scored the goals as the North Bay Battalion snapped their long losing streak with a hard-fought 2-1 road victory over the Ottawa 67's.
Hargrave was named the game's first star said in a post-game television interview that it was a relief to "end the losing streak," and that the team "looked forward to starting a winning streak."
Sunday afternoon at TD Place, the swooning North Bay Battalion were facing an Ottawa 67's team coming off of a 6-2 Saturday home win over the Kingston Frontenacs.
Those same Fronts were victorious over the Battalion, 3-2 on Friday night in Kingston, on a last-minute goal. The Troops also dropped a Saturday contest to the Peterborough Petes, 5-2, giving up three third-period goals in the defeat.
After dropping the first two games of their three-game road trip, the Battalion losing streak had reached nine, the team's last win a 6-0 triumph on home ice over the Flint Firebirds on December 8.
The Battalion was hoping that the streak could be stopped against a 67's team that North Bay had some success against earlier in the season. Although they dropped a 3-2 decision to Ottawa on December 15, the Troops were victorious twice versus the 67's in October, winning 2-1 as Brett McKenzie scored the winner at Ottawa, and at home in a rare offensive explosion, winning 8-5.
Despite a mid-week assertion that trade talks had been quiet to that point, Battalion Head Coach/General Manager did cobble together two deals over the weekend.
First-line winger Maurizio Colella was flipped to Flint for a fifth-round 2019 OHL Priority Selection pick. Colella will play under former Battalion assistant Ryen Oulahen, now the bench boss in Flint. Colella scored and logged a plus-three in his first game with the Firebirds, Saturday.
A move to bring in some defensive help to try to make up for the long-term loss of Cam Dineen to injury was made, but Stephen Templeton, acquired from the Oshawa Generals, has yet to dress for the Battalion. The rearguard is the grandson of the late Bert Templeton, the legendary North Bay Centennials coach. The Generals received the Troops' 10th-round selection in the 2017 draft in return.
Before the Christmas break, the Battalion had enjoyed a perch at the top of the Central and the second playoff seed in the OHL's Eastern Conference. Heading into Sunday's tilt, the Troops had fallen to third in the Central and sat in the final playoff position (eighth) in the conference, just two points clear of the Niagara IceDogs.
The 67's scored a powerplay marker to open the scoring just over nine minutes into the game. Highly-touted NHL draft prospect Sasha Chmelevski gained the Battalion blueline, split the defence, and fired a shot along the ice that beat starter Brent Moran between the pads. Jared Steege assisted on Chmelevski's 15th of the season that gave the home team a 1-0 lead.
The Troops came out slow in their bid to end the streak. Rare was the sequence where more than a pass or two connected in a row, and multiple icings against the Battalion were called. The effects of the gruelling weekend road trip showed early in this game.
Zach Poirier had the best North Bay chance of the first, breaking loose from his check as he skated across the face of the Ottawa net, but his high shot was gloved by 67's goaltender Olivier Lafreniere. Moments later, Lafreniere slid to his left to smother a one-timer by Brad Chenier.
Shots favoured the 67's 13-10 after one period of play.
To their credit, the Battalion came out with much more energy to start the second period. After killing off a Brady Lyle slashing penalty, the Troops went on the offensive, with McKenzie having the best of the early chances. The compete level and strong forecheck was much improved from the slower-paced opening period.
Kyle Potts picked up a loose puck off of a broken play in the Ottawa zone to the right of Lafreniere and shot quickly. The 67's netminder made the initial save, but Justin Brazeau went hard to the net and jammed in the rebound, tying the game 1-1. Brazeau's 10th of the season was also assisted by Daniel Walker.
Just under two minutes later, The Troops took the lead with a delayed penalty call coming. Brett Hargrave took a Poirier feed on a 2-on-1 and made no mistake, beating Lafreniere glove side. It was Hargrave's 12th goal of the season.
The Battalion looked determined to head home on a winning note, stopping the streak before it reached double digits. Shots were even in the second period, 14-14, and Ottawa led overall 27-24.
The Battalion were 4-0-0-0 this season when leading after two periods.
North Bay's Daniil Verity had a golden chance two minutes into the third to give the Battalion a cushion on the scoreboard, but Ottawa's Lafreniere stayed with the puck and made a pad save to keep the margin at one.
Noel Hoefenmayer took the first Ottawa penalty of the game, a hooking infraction. On the powerplay, North Bay defenceman Adam Thilander snuck in from the blueline and shot, but was thwarted by Lafreniere. Moments later, Brazeau had a chance from in close, but was also denied.
The 67's pushed forward as they tried to find the equalizing goal. Moran made several key saves to keep his team ahead. Arturn Tyanulin, Ottawa's leading scorer, had a breakaway chance but fumbled the puck in his skates. Hoefenmayer rang a shot off of the post late in the third period, and both Moran and captain Riley Bruce sprawled to block the rebound chance by Chmelevski.
The 67's elected to pull their goalie with 1:46 to play and the faceoff in the Battalion zone. A penalty called with 29.5 seconds left produced an interesting sequence where Ottawa players tried to force the North Bay players to touch the puck, but they refused, running ten seconds off of the clock. The Troops weathered the storm, and as the clock expired, the players celebrated the end of the streak.
The Battalion return home to face division-rival, the Mississauga Steelheads Thursday at Memorial Gardens. Puck drop is 7 p.m.