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Guelph prevails in overtime

NORTH BAY, Ont. — Cedric Ralph scored at 3:39 of overtime to give the Guelph Storm a 3-2 victory over the North Bay Battalion in a wild Ontario Hockey League game Sunday.

Barret Kirwin scored two goals and added an assist for Guelph, which improved its won-lost-extended record to 25-21-4 for 54 points. The Storm vaulted past the idle Owen Sound Attack into third place in the Midwest Division and sixth place in the Western Conference. Goaltender Anthony Popovich provided 27 saves.

Brad Chenier and Justin Brazeau scored for the Battalion, which trailed 2-0 late in the third period. Goaltender Christian Propp faced 34 shots before 2,355 at Memorial Gardens.

The Battalion, 10-2-1 in its last 13 games, is 23-21-7 for 53 points, third in the Central Division and tied with the Oshawa Generals, who downed the visiting Windsor Spitfires 6-3, for fifth place in the Eastern Conference.

“It was a tough game to get any momentum,” said Battalion coach Stan Butler. “We spent most of the game in the penalty box. There was no flow to the game, and it’s tough on the players who are not on the penalty kill because they don’t play as much. Propp was great again today. He gave us a chance, and that’s all you can ask from your goalie.”

Kirwin gave Guelph a 2-0 lead on the power play at 10:32 of the third period, beating a screened Propp from the left-wing circle.

The Battalion seemed energized after a melee at 12:53 following a vicious slash by Guelph’s Ryan Merkley on Daniel Walker. Several scraps ensued and, after a 10-minute delay while referees Ryan Elbers and Jason Faist tried to sort out penalties, the Troops eventually ended up with a three-minute power play.

The Battalion capitalized on the man advantage at 17:17 when Chenier, stationed in the deep slot, redirected Jesse Saban’s lob from above the left circle between Popovich’s legs. Adam McMaster picked up the second assist on Chenier’s 14th goal of the season.

Propp was pulled for a sixth skater with 1:58 to play, and Brazeau tied it at 19:03, banging the puck past Popovich after a scramble in front. McMaster and Jake Henderson assisted on Brazeau’s team-leading 31st goal.

Liam Hawel, James McEwan and Owen Lalonde had chances early in overtime for Guelph, while Mathew Struthers broke in alone on Popovich but had a close-range shot stopped. Ralph, assisted by Garrett McFadden and Kirwin, got the winner when he dashed down the left wing, cut to the net and snapped the puck over Propp’s blocker.

Kirwin struck shorthanded at 14:07 of the first period. He grabbed a turnover at the Guelph blue line and outraced Braden Henderson to the goalmouth, where he beat Propp high to the stick side.

Battalion penalty killers saw plenty of action in the scoreless second period. The Troops were shorthanded for 4:01 spanning the first intermission, including being two men down for 1:59, after receiving four straight minors. Guelph failed to capitalize, with its best chance coming when Tag Bertuzzi missed an open net from deep in the left circle.

The Battalion plays host to the Flint Firebirds at 7 p.m. Thursday as the Canadian Mental Health Association presents Centennials Night.

BATTALION BULLETS: The teams completed their season series, after the Storm won 6-2 at home Nov. 10. Defenceman Mark Shoemaker faced his former Battalion teammates then, but right winger Zach Poirier, who went to Guelph in the same trade June 27 for Luke Burghardt and Luke Moncada, was suspended at the time. Poirier has four goals and six assists for 10 points in 36 games, while Shoemaker has six assists in 48 games … Moncada and Guelph’s Nate Schnarr face two-game suspensions for engaging in a second fight in the same stoppage in the third-period fracas … The Battalion’s Brandon Coe saw the end of a six-game points streak in which he had three goals and three assists for six points … North Bay went 1-for-6 on the power play. Guelph was 1-for-8 … Opening lines featured Struthers centring left winger Burghardt and right winger Brazeau, Kyle Potts pivoting left winger Chenier and right winger Coe and Patrick Brown centring left winger McMaster and right winger Jake Henderson. Moncada centred left winger Walker and right winger Andy Baker … The Battalion scratched Travis Mailhot, Rhys Forhan and Kurtis Evans … Guelph, which dressed 17 skaters, one below the limit, was without Cam Hillis and Anthony Aguanno … Popovich leads OHL goaltenders with 2,539 minutes played, 1,488 shots against and 1,346 saves … McFadden has three assists in the last three games.

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