‘Dogs, Troops extend streaks
ST. CATHARINES, Ont. — Kirill Maksimov scored two goals as the Niagara IceDogs extended their winning streak to five games with a 5-2 Ontario Hockey League victory Saturday night over the North Bay Battalion, which suffered a sixth straight loss.
Jason Robertson had one goal and one assist for Niagara, which got empty-net goals from Matthew Philip and Elijah Roberts. Goaltender Stephen Dhillon faced 31 shots before a sellout crowd of 5,300 at the Meridian Centre.
Niagara, with a won-lost-extended record of 18-7-4 for 40 points and a first-place tie with the Sudbury Wolves in the Central Division, hasn’t lost since a 5-2 setback Nov. 24 to the host Hamilton Bulldogs.
Nick King and Matthew Struthers each provided one goal and one assist and Justin Brazeau had two assists for North Bay, 11-17-2 for 24 points, fifth in the division. Goaltender Christian Purboo made 35 saves for the Troops, who played the middle game of a three-game road trip after a 4-2 loss Friday night to the Kitchener Rangers. The Battalion’s last win was a 5-2 road decision Nov. 23 over the Mississauga Steelheads.
Maksimov broke a 2-2 tie with his 20th goal of the season at 7:15 of the third period, wheeling into the right-wing circle and beating Purboo with a wrister to the glove side.
The IceDogs thought they had scored again at 11:53, but referee Brett Montsion went to video review, with it ruled that Akil Thomas had used a high stick to knock home Roberts’s shot from the blue line.
Purboo stumbled heading to the bench for a sixth skater with 1:20 left, and Philip quickly cashed in at 18:43. Defenceman Roberts added a second empty-net goal at 19:04.
Maksimov beat Purboo between the pads from the right circle on the power play at 8:26 of the first period, unleashing a torrent of more than 3,500 stuffed toys that took more than seven minutes to remove from the ice.
Robertson connected at 13:21, driving to the net and chipping home a feed from Philip Tomasino. Robertson’s team-high 31st goal gave him the lead in the OHL scoring race with 59 points, one more than Morgan Frost of the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds.
The Battalion responded at 15:15 as King’s wrister from inside the blue line eluded the screened Dhillon. Struthers and Brazeau assisted on defenceman King’s fourth goal.
The Troops directed 14 shots in the period at Dhillon, who reacted quickly as Struthers had three whacks at the puck at the lip of the crease in the 13th minute. Purboo made six saves, including two in close on Ben Jones, who had two assists, and Ivan Lodnia in the sixth minute.
Struthers tied it on the power play at 10:28 of the second period. He took a short pass from King and worked down the left wing into the faceoff circle to drill the puck past Dhillon, who was screened by Brazeau. It was Struthers’s 13th goal, with Brazeau drawing the second assist.
Niagara outshot the vistitors 16-10 in the frame. Purboo came up with good saves on Jones, Thomas and Jacob Paquette, while Dhillon faced threats from Brazeau, who broke in alone in the ninth minute, and Struthers.
The Battalion completes the road trip by playing Hamilton in a sixth straight away game at 2 p.m. Sunday. The game can be seen live in North Bay on YourTV Channels 12 and 700 and heard on Country 600 CKAT.
BATTALION BULLETS: The Battalion is 2-2-0 against Niagara, having swept a home-and-home series Nov. 9-10 by 4-3 scores, the first in overtime at St. Catharines. The teams meet twice more, on March 1 and 17, both at North Bay … In 230 games, Brazeau has 93 goals and 84 assists for 177 points, two more than Howie Martin and 11th in franchise history … North Bay went 1-for-2 on the power play. Niagara was 1-for-4 … Opening lines included Struthers centring left winger Luke Burghardt and right winger Brazeau, Mason Primeau centring left winger Daniel Walker and right winger Brandon Coe and Adam McMaster pivoting left winger Brad Chenier and Patrick Brown on right wing. Luke Moncada centred left winger Cameron Peters and right winger Kurtis Evans … The Battalion was without Travis Mailhot, Rhys Forhan, David Maier and Harrison Caines … In seven games since a trade from the Kingston Frontenacs, Robertson has eight goals and 13 assists for 21 points. He has a 15-game points streak, tied for the longest in the league this season … Jones is riding a six-game points streak in which he has one goal and 10 assists for 11 points … Maksimov has a five-game points streak in which he has seven goals and four assists for 11 points … In four games against the Troops, Tomasino has one goal and six assists for seven points … Mike Cairns was the other referee.