NORTH BAY, Ont. — Linemates Brett McKenzie and Steve Harland were the clear leaders of the North Bay Battalion’s offence in the 2016-17 Ontario Hockey League season.
McKenzie produced a team-leading 29 goals and 38 assists for 67 points in as many games, while Harland scored 27 goals and added 38 assists for 65 points in 68 games.
McKenzie’s 29 goals amounted to the lowest team-leading total since Barclay Goodrow paced the Troops with 24 in 2010-11, the franchise’s 13th of 15 seasons in Brampton before relocation to North Bay. Nick Paul led the Battalion in points with 66 in 2014-15, the second season after the move.
The Battalion, afflicted by virtually a season-long run of injuries, notably to defencemen and goaltenders, finished fourth in the Central Division and ninth in the Eastern Conference, missing the playoffs for the third time in its history, with a won-lost-extended record of 24-38-6 for 54 points. Only the 1998-99 expansion team amassed fewer points, with 19.
Justin Brazeau scored 22 goals and added 15 assists for 37 points in 67 games, while defenceman Adam Thilander registered 35 points, from six goals and 29 assists in 64 games, to rank fourth on the team in scoring. Daniil Vertiy had 14 goals and 15 assists for 29 points in 61 games.
Zach Poirier and Zach Shankar produced 28 points apiece, with Poirier scoring 15 goals in 64 games and defenceman Shankar netting four in 67 games.
For the first time in its history, the Battalion failed to have a player with a three-goal game.
North Bay was credited with 192 goals, tied with the Barrie Colts for 18th in the OHL and the fourth-lowest total in franchise history. Only the Kingston Frontenacs scored fewer, at 179. The Battalion was charged with 261 goals against, 14th-best in the league.
Brazeau led the team with nine power-play goals, followed by McKenzie and Harland with eight each. Thilander scored five.
North Bay scored 42 power-play goals in 263 opportunities for an effectiveness rate of 16.0 percent, 17th in the OHL. The Owen Sound Attack iced the top-ranked power play at 28.4 percent.
The Troops scored nine shorthanded goals, a far cry from the 23 of a year earlier. McKenzie led the way with four, and Shankar added two.
The Battalion allowed 51 power-play goals in 245 times shorthanded for a kill rate of 79.2 percent, 11th in the OHL. The Windsor Spitfires boasted the top-rated penalty killers at 88.5 percent.
Shankar had a team-high 120 penalty minutes, while Poirier was second with 76. McKenzie and Brad Chenier each drew 60 minutes. North Bay was 12th in the league in penalties at 10.9 minutes per game. The Sudbury Wolves led the penalty parade at 14.4 minutes a game.
In plus-minus figures among players with 34 or more games, constituting at least half the season, Kyle Potts topped the Troops at minus-2, while Max Kislinger was minus-4.
Potts, Chenier and Mark Shoemaker joined Harland in playing all 68 games.
In 48 appearances, goaltender Brent Moran posted an 18-23-4 record with a 3.69 goals-against average and an .887 save percentage. Julian Sime was 3-13-1 in 21 appearances with a 3.19 GAA, an .899 save percentage and two shutouts. Mat Woroniuk had nine appearances, a 4.27 GAA and an .852 save percentage while going 3-1-1.
In one relief appearance, emergency goaltender Bradley Van Schubert had a 5.13 GAA and an .889 save percentage in taking the loss.
North Bay went 12-18-4 at home and 12-20-2 on the road. The Battalion, 18-24-4 within the conference, was 12-11-3 within the division and 6-13-1 against the East Division. In going 6-14-2 against the Western Conference, the Troops were 1-8-1 against the Midwest Division and 5-6-1 against West Division opponents.