Milestone win highly welcome
SAGINAW, Mich. — Justin Brazeau scored two goals, including the eventual winner on the power play at 1:41 of the third period, as the North Bay Battalion skated to a 3-2 Ontario Hockey League victory Saturday night over the Saginaw Spirit.
Brad Chenier also scored and goaltender Brent Moran shone in making 39 saves for the Battalion, which won for the first time in three games to move its won-lost-extended record to 22-32-4 for 48 points, tied with the idle Niagara IceDogs for third place in the Central Division and eighth place in the Eastern Conference.
The Battalion, playing the middle game of a three-game weekend road trip, secured the 600th win in franchise history against the former North Bay Centennials franchise, which left the Gateway of the North in 2002. The Troops relocated from Brampton in 2013.
Brady Gilmour and Kris Bennett scored for the Spirit, which got 24 saves from goaltender Evan Cormier before 3,276 at The Dow Event Center. Saginaw, 22-28-9 for 53 points, is fifth in the West Division and ninth in the Western Conference.
The game was 52 seconds old when play was halted because of a lighting malfunction in the rafters at Moran’s end of the ice. After a seven-minute delay, the Troops immediately began pressing the Spirit, forcing Cormier to make a number of stops.
Some sloppy play in the Saginaw zone led to the Troops’ first goal, at 5:41, when Andy Baker seized a turnover and fired the puck at the net. Chenier dashed to the goalmouth and converted the rebound for his sixth goal of the season.
Gilmour tied it at 17:14 when he took a cross-ice pass from Filip Hronek and converted into the gaping left side of the net from deep in the left-wing circle.
Another turnover led to the Battalion’s second goal. Brett McKenzie wheeled high across the Saginaw zone and fired the puck from the top of the right circle, with Brazeau redirecting it with the shaft of his stick in the deep slot at 18:30. Adam McMaster also assisted.
The scoreless second period saw Saginaw forge an 18-10 edge in shots. Moran robbed D.J. Busdeker at the right post with a diving glove stop with the Spirit on the power play in the ninth minute. Moran also foiled Bennett and Hayden Hodgson in close in the sixth minute, turned away drives off the left wing by Hronek and Mike Davies and repelled chances from the lip of the crease for Marcus Crawford and Damien Giroux in the 13th minute.
Cormier denied McMaster and Zach Shankar’s attempt at the rebound in the first minute and stopped a McKenzie drive from the high slot in the eighth as well as turning away Kyle Potts as he led a three-on-one rush in the 15th.
Brazeau scored the winner when he jumped on a loose puck in the slot and fired the disc past Cormier, who was screened by Chenier. Potts and Mark Shoemaker were credited with assists on Brazeau’s 20th goal.
Moran faced 17 shots in the third period, turning away three from Hronek as well as drives by Gilmour, Jesse Barwell, C.J. Garcia and Cole Coskey. Garcia drilled the puck off the left post in the 13th minute.
Saginaw got within a goal at 18:29 with Cormier on the bench for a sixth skater. Hodgson, parked along the right boards, lofted a backhander towards Moran, but the puck bounced high off the side of the net and Bennett swatted it out of the air at the right post.
It was a big statement game for Moran, who was pulled in five of his previous eight starts, including in a 6-3 loss Friday night to the Flint Firebirds.
The Battalion visits the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds at 2:07 p.m. Sunday. The game can be seen live on CogecoTV Channel 12 and heard on Country 600 CKAT.
BATTALION BULLETS: The Battalion has a won-lost-tied record of 600-630-52 since joining the OHL as an expansion club in 1998-99. Stan Butler has been head coach for all the Troops’ 19-year history. Also having led the Oshawa Generals for two seasons, he ranks fifth among OHL coaches in all-time wins with 670 and is second to Dale Hunter of the London Knights among active coaches … McKenzie played his 254th game, tying Sam Carrick for ninth place on the Battalion’s all-time list. With 77 goals and 92 assists for 169 career points, McKenzie tied Carrick for 11th place on the franchise points list. McKenzie has a five-game points streak in which he has three goals and three assists for six points. … Steve Harland saw the end of a five-game points streak and a five-game assists streak, the latter the longest among the Troops this season, with two goals and five assists for seven points in the run … The Battalion went 1-for-2 on the power play. Saginaw was 0-for-2 … Opening lines included McKenzie centring left winger Max Kislinger and right winger Harland, Potts centring McMaster on left wing and right winger Brazeau and Zach Poirier pivoting left winger Chenier and right winger Baker. Brett Hargrave centred left winger Brett Hahkala and right winger Rhys Forhan. Daniel Walker was a 13th forward … The Battalion was without Eric Allair, Cam Dineen, Riley Bruce, Jacob Ball, Daniil Vertiy and Mat Woroniuk.