NORTH BAY, Ont. — Newcomer Luke Burghardt scored two goals to pace the North Bay Battalion to a 5-2 victory over the Barrie Colts in the Troops’ Ontario Hockey League season opener Friday night.
Luke Moncada, Daniel Walker and Kyle Potts, into an empty net, also scored and Justin Brazeau earned two assists for the Battalion, which had lost 12 straight home openers since a 5-2 decision at Brampton over the Guelph Storm on Sept. 24, 2004. Goaltender Julian Sime faced 24 shots before 2,848 at Memorial Gardens.
Jaden Peca and Kade Landry scored for Barrie, which opened its season Thursday night with an 11-2 rout of the visiting Ottawa 67’s. Goaltender Christian Propp made 25 saves.
“I was pretty happy with our game,” said Battalion head coach Stan Butler. “I was happy with a lot of our new guys. I thought they played pretty well. It was a good effort. Barrie is a very good team with a lot of good players. They have a lot of offensively gifted players and two strong lines. Sime was outstanding.”
Moncada, who was acquired with Burghardt in a June 27 trade from Guelph, opened the scoring with his first OHL goal at 8:56 of the first period. Brandon Coe raced down the right wing and directed the puck toward the net, where a charging Moncada chipped it past Propp. Coe, the third overall pick in the OHL Priority Selection last April, earned his first OHL point, while Cam Dineen had the second assist.
The Battalion, which killed three Barrie power plays, had the best of the chances in the frame, in which it held an 11-7 edge in shots. Propp reacted quickly in the first minute to turn away a Jesse Saban drive from the blue line, and the goaltender made key stops on Brazeau, Adam McMaster, Daniil Vertiy and Andy Baker. Burghardt twice tested Propp. Sime’s biggest stop came at 9:12 when he robbed Ben Hawerchuk with the glove at the right post.
A 10-minute video review ended in a tying goal at 3:36 of the second period. Referee Quincy Evans ruled Peca had knocked his own rebound into the net with a high stick, but the call on the ice then was changed. After a conference with the video goal judge, it was determined that the puck caromed off Sime before crossing the goal line.
“They explained to us that initial high stick was above the shoulder and they said a second guy touched it below the crossbar,” said Butler. “I tried to interpret that explanation as best as I could.”
The Battalion grabbed a 3-1 lead with goals 1:11 apart, sparked by Burghardt’s tally at 10:05. Burghardt and Brazeau broke in alone, with Burghardt beating a sprawling Propp on a forehand deke. Brazeau and Adam Thilander, with a stretch pass, earned assists. Walker then struck for his first OHL goal and the eventual winner, burying a cross-crease feed from Baker from deep in the left-wing circle. A second assist went to Riley Bruce.
Defenceman Landry pulled Barrie within one on the power play at 12:15, beating Sime with a wrister from the right faceoff dot.
North Bay outshot the Colts 8-7, with Brazeau, Coe and Eric Allair among those testing Propp. Sime turned away an excellent close-in chance for Zachary Magwood.
The Battalion survived a major penalty for checking from behind issued to Rhys Forhan at 4:40 of the third period after Hawerchuk interrupted the Barrie power play by taking a hooking penalty, and Sime turned away solid chances for Landry, Peca and Lucas Chiodo, while Sam Rhodes put the puck off the right post.
Burghardt made it 4-2 at 12:32, skating behind the net and slipping the puck between Propp’s pads at the right post. Brazeau drew the lone assist. Potts finished the scoring at 18:59 with Propp on the bench.
The Battalion visits the Sudbury Wolves at 2 p.m. Sunday to open a home-and-home series. The game can be seen live on YourTV Channels 12 and 700 and heard on Country 600 CKAT. The Wolves invade North Bay at 7 p.m. Wednesday.
BATTALION BULLETS: The Battalion has a won-lost-tied record of 5-14-1 in season openers, including 4-10-0 at home and 1-3-0 at North Bay since relocating from Brampton in 2013. The Troops have a won-lost-extended record of 6-12-2 in home openers, including 1-3-1 at North Bay … Barrie has provided the home-opener opposition a leading six times … Opening lines featured McMaster centring left winger Moncada and right winger Coe, Burghardt centring left winger Brad Chenier and right winger Brazeau and Potts pivoting left winger Vertiy and right winger Forhan. Jacob Ball centred left winger Walker and right winger Baker … Defence pairings saw Dineen with Bruce, Saban with Thilander and Allair with Brady Lyle … The Battalion was without Travis Mailhot, Simon Rose, Brett McKenzie, Kurtis Evans, Patrick Brown and Alex Robert … Including McKenzie, who’s with the Utica Comets of the American Hockey League, the Battalion has 26 players on the roster after defenceman Payton Vescio was assigned Thursday to the affiliated Powassan Voodoos of the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League … Coe made his OHL debut, while Battalion assistant coach Scott Wray, a onetime member of the North Bay Centennials, saw his first OHL bench action … Captain Bruce had Dineen and Saban as alternates … The Battalion went 0-for-7 on the power play. Barrie was 1-for-6 … Brent Coulombe was the other referee.