Newcomers ready to hit the ice
NORTH BAY, Ont. — The North Bay Battalion will present a somewhat different look when it plays host to the Windsor Spitfires, reigning Memorial Cup champions, at 7 p.m. Thursday.
Not only did the Battalion end an eight-game losing streak with an 8-2 victory Sunday over the visiting Kingston Frontenacs, but it’s acquired a new goaltender and fresh defenceman in Christian Propp and Nick King respectively, both of whom are expected to play against Windsor.
Before the game Sunday, North Bay sent rearguard Brady Lyle and a seventh-round pick in the 2020 OHL Priority Selection to the Owen Sound Attack for a 2020 10th-rounder and Propp, whom the Attack had acquired earlier in the day from the Barrie Colts for three picks. On Monday, the Battalion dealt a conditional 15th-rounder in 2018 to Owen Sound for King.
“We’re hoping Christian can be a No. 1 goalie not just for this year but for the future,” Stan Butler, director of hockey operations and head coach, said Wednesday. “Obviously, we gave up a good defenceman to get him, but without a goalie you’re in a pretty tough spot to play well in this league.”
The acquisition of King, 18, followed in light of Lyle’s departure.
“We thought that he’d be a big help to our team, losing Brady. We thought some of our younger (defencemen) were fine playing six-seven but we needed a guy to play in the top five.”
Julian Sime, who joined the Troops last November after both Mat Woroniuk and overage starter Brent Moran went down with injuries, has been tabbed to back up Propp.
Woroniuk, who was placed on waivers Monday, cleared them Wednesday and is free to seek a position with a junior A club. Christian Purboo, who played the last two games, including a 7-1 road loss Friday night to the Mississauga Steelheads, has returned to the junior A Oakville Blades after signing a standard player’s agreement Friday.
“Christian did sign, but he’s gone back to Oakville to play the year there,” said Butler. “He needs to finish off his Grade 12, but it gives us access to him to be used for some games, and Julian’s 19.
“So I would think that now, for goalies going forward, we’ll have Propp next year as a 19-year-old, (Purboo) as an 18-year-old and (Christian) Cicigoi as a 17-year-old, and that’s what we’re trying to build here, goaltending depth at all ages.”
Cicigoi, a sixth-round pick in the OHL Priority Selection last April, is with the affiliated Powassan Voodoos of the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League.
Butler suggested that Lyle’s trade request, which was based on the nature of his ice time, meshed well with the team’s top need. Lyle, a North Bay native, was the Troops’ first-round pick in 2015.
“Once that player made that request, it was at a timing where we needed a goalie, so it kind of worked out, because normally a player like that you’re not looking to trade but, when the player comes forward and asks for that, it allowed us to have a player that teams would be interested in, in order to get that goalie.”
Propp, a fifth-round pick by Barrie in 2015, made two appearances with the Colts in 2015-16 before playing 32 games last season, posting a won-lost-extended record of 7-20-1, a 3.89 goals-against average, an .884 save percentage and one shutout. In three games this season, he went 1-1-1 with a 2.28 GAA and a .923 save percentage.
“In fairness to him, he was a 17-year-old goalie in the league last year on a team that won less games than we did, and he was in a three-man rotation,” said Butler, who noted that the Battalion’s goaltending coach saw promise in Propp.
“He got off to a good start this year, and Adam Dennis liked his size and his talent level. Of the goalies out there, we really didn’t want to bring in a ’98 goalie. We wanted to try to solidify the position for a couple of years and allow us, moving forward, to use overage spots for players.”
Windsor, which won the Canadian Hockey League championship as the tournament’s host team last May, is 7-4-1 for 15 points, third in the West Division. Centre Aaron Luchuk leads the offence with 11 goals, tied for second in the OHL, and eight assists for 19 points in 12 games. Goaltender Michael DiPietro, 7-3-1, has league-leading numbers in a 1.94 GAA and .940 save percentage.
The Battalion is 4-6-2 for 10 points, tied for third place in the Central Division with the Sudbury Wolves with a game in hand. The Troops have played eight home games, going 3-3-2, and are 1-3-0 away from Memorial Gardens.
The Windsor game is the first of seven straight against Western Conference teams, the last six of which are on the road, kicking off with a visit to Owen Sound at 7:30 p.m. Saturday and a date with the Kitchener Rangers at 2 p.m. Sunday.
“We’ve got a real tough two weeks here,” said Butler.
“Our team hasn’t played that badly at times this year, and hopefully by adding these two players it’s going to plug some gaps that we as a coaching staff felt we had.”