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Troops shut down 4-0 at the hands of the Generals

'Just one of those games where we have to hit the rest button and look forward to our next game'
Kyle McDonald battles in front of the net against the Generals in Oshawa on January 29th 2023.

The Battalion stepped on the ice in Oshawa dressed in their Centurion colours but it was the Generals who got their motors running early en-route to a 4-0 win over North Bay on Sunday evening. Ryan Gagnier beat scored a hat trick and Stuart Rolofs added a goal, getting Oshawa to their 18th win of the season and 40th point to sit just two points back of Sudbury for the eighth playoff position. Meantime and the extremely other end of the spectrum the Battalion dropped back two points from Eastern Conference leading Ottawa when the 67’s picked up their first regulation win in their last five games, defeating Mississauga 4-2. The Battalion (32-12-1-1) have 66 points and Ottawa (32-9-2-2) have 68 points, with one game in hand on the Troops. With just over 20 games remaining in the season this is going to be an exciting finish for that number one overall seed.  

However, at least as far as Sunday night was concerned, there wasn’t too much excitement being had on the Battalion end of the ice. Rookie netminder Mike McIvor got the call for just his second career Ontario Hockey League start and wasn’t able to have a repeat performance of his debut back in November when he made 37 saves on 39 shots in what turned into a 4-1 loss to Hamilton (with the Bulldogs scoring two empty net goals).  

Oshawa opened the scoring at 8:47 when Calum Ritchie blocked a clearing attempt at the Battalion blue line, and brought the puck down the left wing before feeding it through the slot to a wide-open Gagnier (19) who shot high over the glove of McIvor, giving the Generals a 1-0 lead.  

Gagnier (20) got his second goal of the game by finishing off a one-timer, set up on a pass from behind the net by Beckett Sennecke at 18:06.  

The Generals took a 3-0 lead 22 seconds into the second period when McIvor let a rebound trickle away from him just outside the crease and Rolofs took advantage of the miscue and put it in for his 18th of the season and the long power play goal of the game.  

Gagnier (21) finished off his hat trick by stealing the puck in the neutral zone and on a partial breakaway he sniped a shot from the top of the left side circle, putting Oshawa ahead for good 4-0.  

“We weren’t getting any bounces going our way,” says Battalion defenceman Avery Winslow. “I thought we were battling hard and creating our scoring chances, but just couldn’t capitalize.” 

The Battalion were only outshot 30-29 and had three power play opportunities, the same as the Generals.  

“Just one of those games where we have to hit the reset button and look forward to our next game.” 

It was a loss that snaps a three-game winning streak for North Bay, who were coming off two straight wins already this weekend, defeating a first-place team in Windsor at home on Thursday and dropping division rivals Niagara on Saturday evening.  

“We had a lot of positive points come out of the games this weekend,” says Winslow. “A lot of things to take away and move forward with. Even on that win streak we had moments where we felt shaky, but I think we’ve got the train rolling in the right direction and now it’s just focusing on Wednesday.” 

On Wednesday, the Troops are in Sudbury for their fifth meeting of the season against the Wolves, who they have beaten defeated three times for a record of 3-1-0-0 although the last matchup was a 2-1 shootout win in Sudbury on January 11th.  

This was the second straight game against one of the bottom teams in the Eastern Conference and it must be mystifying for the Battalion players to head on the road against teams with losing records and see them being able to draw more fans in the stands than they see at home.  
On Saturday night in Niagara 4503 people watched the Battalion play a team who has nine wins and on Sunday in Oshawa, the Generals' announced attendance was 5721. Even the Sudbury Wolves were able to bring in over 4800 fans earlier last week when Seattle Kraken prospect Shane Wright and the Windsor Spitfires paid a visit during their Indigenous Youth in Sport and Mental Wellness night in which the Wolves unveiled a gorgeous limited edition indigenous designed themed jersey, which was auctioned off after the game. Sure, they have larger fan bases to draw from, and maybe the weather is better in those parts of the province specifically when those teams play, (or the weather altogether isn’t an excuse to stay home?) but North Bay is a first-place team, and quite arguably this is the best team the Battalion has put on the ice since moving here, negating the idea that “the crowds will come to support a winner.” 

Yes, it’s a team that should be drawing bigger crowds as they race toward a second straight central division title and have bigger aspirations on their minds, but that is an old school mentality that just doesn’t work with today's demographics. People aren’t satisfied with just paying to see a hockey game 34 times a year. There is a lot of competition for those entertainment dollars, and to that extent, the Hockey Operations group has lived up to their side of the bargain.  
They have brought in players that are good on the ice, attractive NHL prospects and young men who are extremely marketable. They have a tremendous amount of personality (which you can hear and see every week on the Frontline Podcast) but are those things being portrayed to the community in an engaging way by the business operations? Whatever issues and challenges that side is facing, it’s certainly become a disappointment to see stagnant tickets sales and seldom new ideas to reignite the fan base or create new fans.  

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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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