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Niagara rallies for overtime win

NORTH BAY, Ont. — Kirill Maksimov scored at 51 seconds of overtime to give the Niagara IceDogs a 3-2 comeback victory Thursday night over the North Bay Battalion as Ontario Hockey League clubs resumed the schedule after the Christmas break.

Liam Ham provided one goal and one assist, as did Maksimov, and Andrew Bruder also scored for Niagara, which trailed 2-0 after 40 minutes. Goaltender Stephen Dhillon made 44 saves as the IceDogs, second in the Central Division, improved their won-lost-extended record to 17-11-5 for 39 points.

Brett McKenzie and Andy Baker scored for North Bay, 12-18-5 for 29 points, third in the division. Goaltender Christian Propp faced 30 shots before a crowd of 2,647.

Battalion coach Stan Butler termed the result “extremely disappointing.”

“I thought for the most part we played a pretty good game. Their goalie played very well, but we had three chances to put the game away with opportunities on the power play and instead we end up giving up one.

“I think the game was basically lost because of our inability to score timely goals when you need to get them. That’s how the game is. You’ve got to capitalize in those situations and we didn’t, and that’s unfortunate.”

Adam McMaster darted up the slot to challenge Dhillon in overtime, but Niagara came back the other way as Akil Thomas sent Maksimov in alone on Propp to beat the goaltender on a backhander from tight range for a team-leading 21st goal on the season.

Defenceman Ham precipitated overtime with a shorthanded goal at 18:11 as Niagara killed a third straight power play in the second half of the third period, the only ones the Troops had in the game. Maksimov zipped the puck across the goalmouth for a tap-in at the right side.

The Battalion had several chances earlier in the frame to extend its 2-1 lead, with Dhillon sprawling to make a left-pad save against McKenzie in the eighth minute and Brad Chenier chopping at a loose puck in the slot two minutes later.

Bruder initiated the Niagara comeback when he struck at 5:57, converting a Kyle Langdon pass from the end boards with Ham drawing the second assist.

McKenzie opened the scoring with his ninth goal at 4:21 of the second period. Justin Brazeau took the puck to the net around Billy Constantinou for a shot from the slot and Zach Shankar failed to clear it, the disc sliding to the trailing McKenzie, who ripped it past Dhillon. Luke Burghardt drew the other assist.

The Battalion applied sustained pressure before Baker collected his sixth goal at 18:53, converting a backhand pass from the end boards behind the net from McMaster. Cam Dineen earned the second assist.

Niagara had an 11-10 edge in first-period shots, but the Troops enjoyed the better chances despite the visitors getting the only power play. Chenier centred the puck to the goalmouth in the ninth minute with McMaster and Baker failing to capitalize, and Burghardt fed McKenzie in front where he was denied by Dhillon at 9:53. Dhillon then gloved a screened left-point drive by Dineen off the ensuing faceoff.

With the teams skating four a side midway in the frame, Adam Thilander was foiled at the crease off a setup by Chenier, and Burghardt put on a puck-possession display, circling the offensive zone twice at ever-increasing speed. Burghardt later sent Kyle Potts up the middle alone, but he was hooked without penalty and Dhillon covered up at 15:18.

The Battalion plays host to the Mississauga Steelheads at 1 p.m. Sunday in the Troops’ annual New Year’s Eve game.

BATTALION BULLETS: It was the fourth of six games between the Battalion and IceDogs and the third win for Niagara. The IceDogs prevailed 4-3 on the road Nov. 12 and 6-1 at home Nov. 17 before the visiting Troops won 6-3 on Dec. 15. The next game in the season series is Jan. 28 at Memorial Gardens … In 293 games, McKenzie has 88 goals and 106 assists for 194 points, tied with Adam Henrich for seventh place on the Battalion’s all-time list … Brazeau has 24 goals and 14 assists for a career-high 38 points, one more than last season … Dineen received a first-period goaltender interference penalty after being knocked into Dhillon by William Lochead … Each team went 0-for-3 on the power play … Opening lines included McKenzie centring left winger Burghardt and right winger Brazeau, McMaster centring left winger Chenier and right winger Baker and Potts pivoting left winger Luke Moncada and right winger Brandon Coe. Patrick Brown centred Alex Robert on left wing and Kurtis Evans on right wing … The Battalion scratched Eric Allair, Simon Rose, Rhys Forhan and Daniel Walker … Chenier returned from a two-game suspension for a match penalty for slew-footing late in a 5-2 home-ice loss Dec. 14 to the Hamilton Bulldogs … Ben Jones, who assisted on Ham’s goal, has a six-game assists streak during which he has seven helpers … All 20 teams were in action as the OHL’s holiday hiatus ended.

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