Niagara rallies for 4-2 win
ST. CATHARINES, Ont. — The tie, at least for the time being, has been broken in favour of the Niagara IceDogs.
Akil Thomas, Sam Miletic and Ben Jones each had a goal and an assist as Niagara rebounded to a 4-2 Ontario Hockey League victory Saturday night over the North Bay Battalion, moving two points ahead of the Troops for sole possession of second place in the Central Division and fourth in the Eastern Conference.
Elijah Roberts scored the other goal for Niagara, which improved its won-lost-extended record to 28-22-9 for 65 points. Goaltender Colton Incze faced 26 shots before a capacity crowd of 5,300 at the Meridian Centre.
The IceDogs, who ended a 10-game losing streak with a 4-1 win Thursday night over the visiting Saginaw Spirit, were blanked 4-0 Friday night by the host Mississauga Steelheads and are 2-8-3 in their last 13 games.
Adam Thilander and Matthew Struthers scored for North Bay, which grabbed a 2-0 lead before the game was 11 minutes old. Goaltender Christian Propp allowed three goals on 39 shots, with Jones scoring into an empty net. The Troops, 27-23-9 for third place in the division and fifth in the conference, opened a two-game road trip and are 14-4-4 in their last 22 games.
Niagara, which trailed 2-1 after 20 minutes, took the lead with a pair of second-period goals, the first by Miletic at 6:52 when he knocked the puck home after Propp failed to smother it at the lip of the crease. Miletic collected his 31st goal of the season and 15th since a Jan. 9 trade from the London Knights.
With the teams skating four a side, Roberts scored what proved to be the winner at 11:54, driving to the net and chipping the puck, which trickled under Propp. Defenceman Roberts’s eighth goal was assisted by Jones and Justin MacPherson.
Brad Chenier and Niagara’s Johnathon Schaefer fought at 14:09, trading several solid punches before Chenier got the takedown. Each was assessed a major.
Niagara outshot the visitors 10-6 in the third period, when the Battalion failed to mount any number of significant threats before Jones deposited his 20th goal into the vacant net at 18:15 with Propp on the bench.
Thilander opened the scoring on the power play at 4:24 of the first period, slipping to the inner edge of the left-wing circle to take a cross-ice pass from Justin Brazeau and beating Incze cleanly. Jesse Saban also assisted on defenceman Thilander’s seventh goal.
Struthers struck on a breakaway from centre ice, snapping the puck past Incze from the left circle at 10:55. Brazeau had the lone assist on Struthers’s 19th goal and his 10th since a Jan. 3 trade from the Owen Sound Attack.
The Battalion failed to score on two late breakaways, when Luke Burghardt left the penalty box at 16:56 and got the puck behind the defence, and when Chenier was sprung with a stretch pass in the 18th minute only to be denied.
Thomas countered at 19:48 when he got open on the left side to receive a Miletic pass and put home a 19th goal. Kirill Maksimov had the other assist. The IceDogs pulled Incze for an extra skater for an offensive-zone faceoff with 1.9 seconds left in the period, but the resulting shot came just too late to be counted.
The Battalion visits the conference-leading Hamilton Bulldogs at 2 p.m. Sunday. The game can be seen live in North Bay on YourTV Channels 12 and 700 and heard on Country 600 CKAT.
BATTALION BULLETS: The teams completed their season series, with the Battalion posting a record of 2-3-1 … Burghardt saw the end of a seven-game points streak in which he had three goals and eight assists for 11 points. In six games against Niagara, he had one goal and six assists for seven points … Brazeau, who scored in each of the previous five games, a season high for the Troops, has a seven-game points streak in which he has five goals and seven assists for 12 points … The Battalion was 1-for-1 on the power play. Niagara went 0-for-3 … Opening lines had Struthers centring left winger Burghardt and right winger Brazeau, Kyle Potts centring left winger Adam McMaster and right winger Jake Henderson and Luke Moncada centring left winger Chenier and right winger Brandon Coe. Rhys Forhan pivoted left winger Daniel Walker and right winger Andy Baker … The Battalion was without Simon Rose, Kurtis Evans and Patrick Brown … Henderson was loudly cheered by members of the Hendo Fan Club, who traveled by bus from his home town of St. Louis for the weekend games … McMaster, a resident of nearby Beamsville, Ont., and the Troops’ first-round pick in the 2016 OHL Priority Selection, turned 18 on Saturday … Niagara scratched Danial Singer, Adrian Carbonara and Billy Constantinou … In six games against North Bay, Maksimov had four goals and six assists for 10 points.