Battalion celebrates with 5-2 victory

BRAMPTON, Ont. – Blake Clarke scored two goals and Nick Paul provided three, including two into an empty net, as the Brampton Battalion defeated the Mississauga Steelheads 5-2 Monday, gaining a split of the Peel Region rivals home-and-home series.

Goaltender Jake Smith made 25 saves in the Troops traditional New Years Eve game as the Battalion, third in the Ontario Hockey Leagues Central Division, improved its won-lost-extended record to 19-14-6 for 44 points, three ahead of fourth-place Mississauga.

Stuart Percy and Riley Brace scored for Mississauga before a crowd of 2,307, while goaltender Spencer Martin made 31 saves for the Steelheads, 19-14-3, who won 5-4 via shootout Sunday.

“The good part of the weekend is that we got five of six points,” said coach Stan Butler, whose Troops won 3-2 Friday night over the host Sarnia Sting. “We didn’t get four points from Mississauga, but we got three and gained one, and that’s important.

“Given that two-thirds of our top line are out of the lineup, I thought a lot of our young guys really played well today.”

The Battalion was without the injured Barclay Goodrow and Jamie Lewis, both of whom left the game at Mississauga in the second period.

Clarke snapped a 2-2 tie at 17:05 of the second period on a broken three-on-one rush with Brendan Childerley and Marcus McIvor. Childerley attempted a pass to McIvor, but it was blocked by a sliding defender. The trailing Clarke scored his 12th goal of the season on a wrister over Martins glove.

Paul potted empty-netters at 19:04 and 19:45 of the third period, giving him 10 goals and providing the Troops, who surrendered a 4-3 lead in the final minute Sunday, with welcome breathing room.

“When the first empty-net goal went in, it was a big relief, not just because of what happened yesterday, but that extra cushion makes things more comfortable,” said Paul. “I got lucky on the second one.”

The Battalion trailed 1-0 after 20 minutes, but Clarke tied it at 3:12 of the second period during a two-man advantage, slipping the puck home from goalmouth traffic after it was centred from the left wing.

“As soon as Clarke scored to tie it, we knew we had the momentum, said Paul. It really fired us up on the bench, and we fed off it.”

Paul struck for a 2-1 lead at 4:42, splitting the defence as Trevor Carrick fell and drilling a forehand shot from the slot. Martin got his blocker on the shot, but the puck glanced off it and into the net.

Brace tied it on the power play at 12:37, sweeping home a rebound at the right edge of the crease.

Defenceman Percy connected at 13:15 of the first period with Clarke serving a head-check penalty. After Percy’s slap shot from the left point went through the mesh at the right post, play continued until a whistle, whereupon video review confirmed the goal.

“When I saw the shot, I thought it went through the net and they ended up blowing it back,” said Clarke. “It’s tough, but obviously they made the right call, and if it was us we’d want them to make the right call.”

The Troops almost opened the scoring on their first power play, after Josh Burnside went off for slashing 40 seconds into the game. Dylan Blujus hit the left post with a left-point slap shot.

Percy received an interference call at 2:18, giving the Battalion a two-man advantage for 22 seconds, but the Steelheads had the best scoring chance when Burnside got a partial breakaway out of the penalty box and snapped a shot off the right post.

Smith made a glove save against a spinning Dylan Smoskowitz in the left faceoff circle in the 18th minute to keep the Mississauga lead at 1-0.

“I’m starting to really feel comfortable after being a bit shaky the first couple of games,” said Smith. “For the team to win, a goalie has to make a few big saves to swing some momentum, and it helped a bit today.”

Smith came up big in the 12th minute of the final period after a slap-pass by Carrick found an attackers stick in the slot. Smith squeezed his pads to deny the opportunity.

Apart from Goodrow and Lewis, the Battalion was without Matej Machovsky. Mississauga scratched Eric Diodati, Scott Teskey, Jacob Graves, Damian Bourne, Craig Hottot and Grant Syrette.

The Battalion hosts the Oshawa Generals at 7 p.m. Thursday.

BATTALION NOTEBOOK: The Battalion, which has played at home on New Years Eve since the clubs inception, moved its all-time won-lost-tied record on Dec. 31 to 13-1-1. The Troops only loss came in 2003, when the Mississauga IceDogs won 5-4 in their sixth and last appearance on the date, having tied 2-2 in 2002. The Toronto St. Michaels Majors played once and the Mississauga St. Michaels Majors four times. The Generals, Sudbury Wolves and Kingston Frontenacs each visited once. The Steelheads are the former Majors franchise … The Battalion went 1-for-7 on the power play. Mississauga was 2-for-3 … The Troops have a won-lost-extended record of 11-5-2 at home. Mississauga is 8-8-1 on the road … The Battalion went 7-3-1 in December … The Troops improved to 1-2-2 against the Steelheads this season … Clarke has a six-game points streak during which he has scored six goals and added two assists for eight points … Opening line combinations included Patrik Machac centring left winger Brandon Robinson and right winger Childerley, Nicholas Foglia pivoting left winger Clarke and right winger Matt MacLeod and Mike Amadio centring left winger Paul and right winger Mathew Santos. Connor Jarvis centred left winger Brennan Feasey and right winger Calvin Gomes … Feasey was called up from the junior B Chatham Maroons and Gomes from the Brampton Bombers, both of the Greater Ontario Junior Hockey League. Feasey has one goal in eight games with the Troops this season. Gomes played his second OHL game after debuting Nov. 17 against the host Saginaw Spirit … The Battalion issued complimentary tickets to fans showing a ticket from the game Sunday, reciprocating a Steelheads offer.

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