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For openers, Troops grab win

NORTH BAY, Ont. — Adam McMaster and Matthew Struthers each scored two goals and added an assist to pace the North Bay Battalion to a 7-5 Ontario Hockey League victory Friday night over the Hamilton Bulldogs in the season opener for both teams.

Daniel Walker, Cameron Peters and Nick King also scored for the Battalion, which got 28 saves from goaltender Christian Propp before a crowd of 3,129 at Memorial Gardens.

Brandon Saigeon scored two goals and added three assists, Arthur Kaliyev had two goals and one assist and Nicolas Mattinen also scored for Hamilton, which won the J. Ross Robertson Cup, awarded to the OHL champions, last season. Goaltender Nick Donofrio faced 32 shots.

The game marked the second time the Troops have faced the reigning OHL titlists in their season opener. The Battalion downed the visiting Guelph Storm 5-2 on Sept. 24, 2004, when the club was based in Brampton.

“It was a very up-and down game,” said Battalion coach Stan Butler. “There were times offensively that we played very well, but defensively we weren’t very good. We gave them a lot of opportunities, and their one line really dominated when they were on the ice. Propp was phenomenal tonight. I don’t know what we would have done without him.”

Hamilton opened the scoring at 3:59 of the first period as Kaliyev slipped behind the defence and scooped a Saigeon feed past Propp.

Walker responded at 5:31. Donofrio made a stop on a close-in shot by McMaster, and Walker battled to corral the rebound at the left post before jamming the puck home. Simon Rose earned the second assist.

McMaster put the Battalion in front at 18:52, cruising to the net and steering home Braden Henderson’s wrister from the left point. The second assist went to Cole Cameron.

McMaster gave the Battalion a two-goal lead at 8:28 of the second period, redirecting Payton Vescio’s shot from the right point past a screened Donofrio. Brandon Coe claimed the second assist, while Vescio earned his first OHL point.

Peters, with his first OHL goal, made it 4-1 at 10:33. He drove to the net and buried a pass from Justin Brazeau, with Brad Chenier awarded the second assist.

Saigeon struck eight seconds into the game’s first power-play, beating Propp with a one-timer from the right-wing circle at 12:36 as the Bulldogs skated four against three.

Propp was outstanding as the third period neared the midway mark, turning away terrific chances in close from Kaliyev, Tim Fleischer and Matthew Strome. Saigeon finally beat the goaltender at 10:13, firing a wrister to the glove side from the left circle off a three-on-two rush.

The Troops restored their two-goal lead at 12:23, seconds after Chenier missed on a breakaway. Brazeau grabbed the puck behind the net and sent the disc in front to Struthers, who converted into the open left side past Donofrio’s right pad. Chenier also earned an assist.

Defenceman King struck for what proved to be the winning goal on the power play at 16:19, snapping the puck over Donofrio’s glove from the top of the left circle. The assists went to David Maier, who collected his first OHL point, and Struthers.

Hamilton connected on the power play at 17:54 when rearguard Mattinen ripped a shot high over Propp’s glove from the top of the right circle, and Donofrio was off for a sixth skater when Kaliyev brought the Bulldogs within a goal at 18:39, lofting a backhander into the net off a left-wing faceoff.

Donofrio again headed to the bench, but the visitors couldn’t find the equalizer before Struthers finished the scoring into the empty net at 19:44.

The Battalion visits the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds at 7:07 p.m. Saturday to complete weekend play. The game can be heard on Country 600 CKAT.

BATTALION BULLETS: The Battalion has a won-lost-tied record of 6-14-1 in season openers dating to 1998-99 in Brampton. The Troops have a won-lost-extended record of 7-12-2 in home openers, including 2-3-1 at North Bay … It was the highest-scoring season opener in Battalion history, the 12 goals eclipsing the nine scored in a 5-4 overtime win by the visiting Barrie Colts on Sept. 26, 2014 … Opening lines for the Battalion, which dressed 11 forwards and seven defencemen, featured Struthers centring left winger Chenier and right winger Brazeau, McMaster centring left winger Luke Moncada and right winger Coe and Kyle Potts pivoting left winger Walker and Patrick Brown on right wing. Left winger Harrison Caines and centre Peters had various linemates … Defence pairings saw Henderson with Cameron, King with Maier and Rose alongside Vescio. Pacey Schlueting was the seventh rearguard … The Battalion scratched Travis Mailhot, Egor Postnov, Rhys Forhan, Kurtis Evans and Andy Baker … Caines, Peters, Maier and Schlueting made their OHL debuts, while Cameron saw his first action with the Troops after a preseason trade with the Owen Sound Attack … Captain Brazeau had Struthers, Cameron and Potts, who’ll wear an ‘A’ at home, as alternates … North Bay went 1-for-1 on the power play. Hamilton was 2-for-2 … Jason Faist and Aaron Neely were the referees.

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