SUDBURY, Ont. — Dimitry Sokolov scored three goals and added an assist to power the Sudbury Wolves into the Ontario Hockey League playoffs for the first time since 2014 with a 5-2 victory Friday night over the North Bay Battalion.
For the Battalion, Eastern Conference playoffs hopes come down to beating the visiting Kingston Frontenacs in its season finale Sunday and having Sudbury and the Mississauga Steelheads both defeat the Niagara IceDogs in regulation time.
North Bay has a won-lost-extended record of 24-37-6 for 54 points, fourth in the Central Division and ninth in the conference, two points behind eighth-place Niagara, which hosts Sudbury on Saturday night and visits Mississauga on Sunday. If the Troops get the results they need, they would host the IceDogs in a tiebreaker game for the eighth and last conference playoff berth on the basis of more wins.
Sudbury, wearing green-based uniforms evocative of its vintage colour scheme on St. Patrick’s Day, improved to 25-34-7 for 57 points, vaulting past Niagara into second place in the division and seventh in the conference as goaltender Jake McGrath made 27 saves in avenging a 4-0 loss Thursday night at North Bay.
Defenceman Patrick Sanvido broke a 2-2 tie with the teams skating four a side 20 seconds into the third period, and Ryan Valentini struck at 5:40 when he split the defence and broke up the middle, assisted by Sokolov and David Levin. Sokolov added his team-leading 47th goal of the season into an empty net on the power play at 18:32 before a crowd of 4,266.
Adam Thilander and Daniil Vertiy scored for North Bay, which was supported by a busload of fans, while goaltender Julian Sime faced 41 shots in a second consecutive start.
John Dean, with fellow assistant coach Adam Dennis, ran the Battalion bench for a second straight game. Stan Butler, director of hockey operations and head coach, has been scouting the OHL Cup minor midget tournament at Toronto this week and returned directly to North Bay.
The teams traded first-period goals in quick succession, with defenceman Thilander opening the scoring with his sixth goal on the power play at 12:52, taking a diagonal pass from Steve Harland and snapping the puck home from the left-wing circle.
Sokolov darted to the right post to convert a Kyle Capobianco rebound 55 seconds later. Valentini also provided an assist.
The Troops had at least two other solid scoring chances, with Brett McKenzie firing wide in alone on the left side on a mid-period power play and Adam McMaster hitting the crossbar in the 15th minute.
After Sime stoned penalty killer Chandler Yakimowicz on a breakaway, Vertiy connected for his 14th goal with the man advantage at 17:36 of the second period. The Troops did good work to gain the puck on the left boards before Zach Shankar lobbed a second shot from the point, with Vertiy redirecting it on the doorstep. Mark Shoemaker had the second assist.
Sokolov again wasted no time responding, wiring a screened shot from high in the right circle on the power play at 19:00. Macauley Carson and Yakimowicz drew assists.
With 19 seconds left in the period, a prone McKenzie jammed at a puck that McGrath attempted to freeze. Reagan O’Grady jumped on McKenzie and punched him repeatedly without a call.
Game time Sunday on Fan Appreciation Day against Kingston is 2 p.m.
BATTALION BULLETS: The Battalion, 5-2-1 against Sudbury this season, went 12-11-3 within the division and 12-20-2 on the road. Sudbury was 15-13-6 at home. The Troops have an all-time won-lost-tied record of 79-45-4 in 128 games against the Wolves, their most frequent opponent … McKenzie played his 263rd game, tying Mike Amadio for sixth place on the franchise list … Harland had four goals and seven assists for 11 points in eight games against Sudbury … Each team went 2-for-4 on the power play … Opening line combinations featured McKenzie centring left winger Max Kislinger and right winger Harland, Kyle Potts pivoting McMaster on left wing and right winger Justin Brazeau and Zach Poirier centring left winger Brad Chenier and Vertiy on right wing. Brett Hargrave centred Alex Robert on left wing and right winger Rhys Forhan … The Battalion was without Eric Allair, Cam Dineen, Riley Bruce, Jacob Ball and Mat Woroniuk … Forward Daniel Walker skated on defence, while Robert, who played his fifth OHL game, again was up from the Gloucester Rangers of the Central Canada Hockey League … In eight games against North Bay, Levin had four goals and six assists for 10 points … Sokolov had six goals and as many assists for 12 points in eight games against the Troops. He ranks a distant second in the league in goals, behind Alex DeBrincat of the Erie Otters with 64.