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Brazeau, Propp corral Colts

NORTH BAY, Ont. — Justin Brazeau scored three goals, including the winner and an empty-netter, and added an assist to power the North Bay Battalion to a 5-2 victory over the Barrie Colts in Ontario Hockey League action Sunday.

Luke Burghardt and Adam Thilander each had one goal and one assist for North Bay, which moved its won-lost-extended record to 11-16-4 for 26 points, third in the Central Division. Goaltender Christian Propp, facing his former teammates for the first time, made 25 saves in a strong performance before 2,342 at Memorial Gardens.

Ryan Suzuki had one goal and one assist and Andrei Svechnikov the other goal for Barrie, 17-10-3 for 37 points, tied with the Niagara IceDogs for first place in the division. Goaltender Leo Lazarev gave up four goals on 47 shots.

“I was happy with our game,” said Battalion coach Stan Butler. “We’ve had some tough losses to Barrie this season. I really liked the way our guys played from start to finish. They played a strong game in all three zones.”

Burghardt elicited a flood of stuffed toys from the stands with the opening goal at 11:45 of the first period. Brazeau drove to the net off the left wing around sliding defender Aidan Brown and sent a goalmouth pass to Burghardt, who charged to the crease for his 13th goal of the season. The goal, which prompted a five-minute cleanup, also was assisted by Patrick Brown.

The Colts responded at 14:10 as rookie Suzuki, alone in the slot, one-timed a Jaden Peca pass from behind the net over Propp’s right shoulder.

Thilander struck on the power play at 16:16, drilling a cross-ice pass from Burghardt over the right pad of a sliding Lazarev from the top of the left-wing circle. Nick King also drew an assist on defenceman Thilander’s second goal.

Brazeau capitalized during a two-man advantage for a 3-1 lead at 5:22 of the second period. From below the goal line on the left side, Brazeau banked a pass attempt off Lazarev’s left pad into the net, with assists going to Cam Dineen and Thilander.

Seconds after Svechnikov drilled the puck off the left post, he pulled Barrie within a goal, beating Propp high to the glove side from the inner edge of the right circle at 14:39.

The period saw plenty of chances at both ends as North Bay outshot the visitors 13-12. The Battalion had a territorial advantage through the first half of the frame, with Lazarev foiling Brett McKenzie on a partial breakaway in the 10th minute. The Colts tested Propp on the power play after Brad Chenier went off for high-sticking at 10:10.

The Battalion dominated the third period, peppering Lazarev with a season-high 27 shots. Burghardt, who was awarded a penalty shot at 7:18 after being hooked by Alexey Lipanov on a break-in, consulted Propp, presumably about any Lazarev weaknesses, before making the attempt but was denied. Barrie’s best chance on six shots came in the 14th minute when Propp slid to thwart Justin Murray at the left post.

Brazeau gave the Troops a 4-2 lead at 16:08 during a match penalty issued to Luke Bignell for slew-footing Chenier. Lazarev stopped a Riley Bruce blast from the blue line, but Brazeau fired the rebound into an open net from deep in the left circle. King earned the second assist.

With Lazarev gone for a sixth skater, Brazeau completed the scoring when he backhanded the puck high down the ice from his own goalmouth and had it roll into the empty net at 19:14. Brazeau’s team-leading 23rd goal bettered his total of last season by one.

The Battalion plays host to the Hamilton Bulldogs at 7 p.m. Thursday on Bumper to Bumper Auto Parts Night.

BATTALION BULLETS: The Teddy Bear Toss, sponsored by Hamelin’s Outdoor Power Equipment, saw 590 plush toys collected, to be donated to a number of organizations this Christmas season, including the North Bay Regional Health Centre, the Ontario Early Years Centre – Nipissing, the Children’s Aid Society of Nipissing & Parry Sound, and North Bay Fire & Emergency Services … The Battalion is 2-3-0 against the Colts, with the season series wrapping up Jan. 13 at Barrie … The Troops’ 48 shots marked a season high, eclipsing their 43 in a 6-5 road win Sept. 24 over the Sudbury Wolves … Propp was acquired from the Owen Sound Attack on Oct. 22, the same day that Barrie dealt him to that club … Brazeau has five goals and three assists for eight points in the last three games. The first three-goal game of his OHL career was the Battalion’s third such feat of the season … Burghardt played his 200th OHL game. It was his 31st with the Troops after 169 with the Guelph Storm … The Battalion went 3-for-7 on the power play. Barrie was 0-for-3 … The Battalion was without Eric Allair, Simon Rose, Rhys Forhan and Daniel Walker … Barrie traded right winger Kirill Nizhnikov to Sudbury on Thursday for four OHL Priority Selection picks, in two second-rounders, a third and a fifth, stretching from 2018 to 2023. Nizhnikov was a first-round selection, seventh overall, by the Mississauga Steelheads in 2016.

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