Greyhounds leap into top spot

NORTH BAY, Ont. — Morgan Frost scored at 4:31 of overtime to lift the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds to a 5-4 victory Thursday night over the North Bay Battalion and into first place in the Ontario Hockey League’s West Division and overall.

Cole MacKay, Barrett Hayton, Jack Kopacka and Tim Gettinger also scored for Sault Ste. Marie, which has won its last seven games and boasts a won-lost-extended record of 16-3-2 for 34 points, one more than the Sarnia Sting. Goaltender Matthew Villalta made 24 saves before 2,156 at Memorial Gardens.

Brett McKenzie and Luke Burghardt each had one goal and one assist for the Battalion, which got its other goals from Justin Brazeau and Luke Moncada. Goaltender Julian Sime faced 37 shots for North Bay, which has lost five straight games and is 6-12-3 for 15 points, fifth in the Central Division.

“We were down a couple of goals, and you’ve got to give the kids a lot of credit,” said Battalion coach Stan Butler. “They battled back and got back into the game there, and we had the lead, 4-3, and then to allow a goal with two minutes to go is tough.”

Frost backhanded the puck at the Battalion net in overtime, and Brazeau knocked it across the line in an attempt to keep it away from Boris Katchouk, who earned his third assist on the play, and clear the disc. It was Frost’s 11th goal of the season.

The teams were tied 2-2 entering the third period, in which the Battalion twice took a one-goal lead, first when Burghardt backhanded the puck home from the right edge of the crease for his eighth goal on the power play at 2:29. Kopacka replied with the man advantage at 5:43, beating Sime from the inner edge of the left-wing circle off a rush.

Moncada drove down the left wing past Conor Timmins and scored from a sharp angle at 15:00, but Gettinger precipitated overtime with his 10th goal when Sime failed to catch a high shot, the puck flipping off his glove into the air and over the goaltender at 17:52, seconds after Villalta left for an extra skater.

The Battalion, which trailed 2-0 after 20 minutes, scored twice late in the second period, with Brazeau igniting the spark at 18:45. Burghardt, fresh from the penalty box after a taking a double minor for high-sticking, was denied at the right edge of the crease but fed the puck to Brazeau in front for his team-leading 13th goal. Brad Chenier also assisted.

McKenzie tied it 16 seconds later, catching Villalta napping with a snap shot from the half boards on the left wing. McKenzie’s sixth goal was assisted by Brandon Coe.

MacKay scored at 7:52 of the first period off a two-on-one rush with Katchouk against Riley Bruce. Katchouk centred the puck to the crease from the left wing for the tap-in by MacKay. Timmins had the other assist.

Hayton struck on the power play at 19:40, just 28 seconds after the Troops were called for having too many men on the ice. Hayton stepped to the top of the left circle and snapped the puck past Sime, assisted by Timmins and Katchouk.

Chenier, who darted down the left wing in the fourth minute only to fire wide left, just missed a setup pass at the crease from the deep-driving Cam Dineen in the 18th minute. Sime made a good right-pad save against Gettinger in close with the Greyhounds on the power play after a tripping call to Bruce at 14:38.

The Battalion visits the Niagara IceDogs at 7 p.m. Friday. The game can be seen live on YourTV Channels 12 and 700 and heard on Country 600 CKAT.

BATTALION BULLETS: Attendance was the lowest since the Battalion moved to North Bay from Brampton in 2013 … On GoodLife Fitness Night, a draw was held for a six-month gym membership … The ’Hounds have won all three meetings with the Battalion this season, two in overtime. The teams complete their four-game series Dec. 8 at Sault Ste. Marie … In 279 career games, McKenzie has 85 goals, one more than Sam Carrick and ninth in franchise history, and 100 assists for 185 points, two more than Jeff Bateman and eighth on the all-time list … Christian Purboo was recalled from the junior A Oakville Blades to back up Sime … North Bay went 1-for-3 on the power play. Sault Ste. Marie was 2-for-6 … Opening lines featured Burghardt centring left winger Chenier and right winger Brazeau, McKenzie centring Adam McMaster on left wing and right winger Coe and Kyle Potts centring left winger Moncada and right winger Andy Baker. Patrick Brown pivoted Alex Robert on left wing and Kurtis Evans on right wing … The Troops were without Eric Allair, Travis Mailhot, Rhys Forhan, Daniel Walker and Christian Propp … McMaster and Battalion defenceman Adam Thilander are among 65 OHLers on the ‘Players to Watch’ list of the National Hockey League’s central scouting department … Katchouk has a seven-game points streak during which he has five goals and nine assists for 14 points.

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