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Saginaw poses next test

NORTH BAY, Ont. — The North Bay Battalion looks to end a losing skid at three games when it plays host to the Saginaw Spirit at 7 p.m. Thursday on Enercare Night in support of Coach4Food.

“I felt that our effort on Sunday was probably the best of our weekend,” assistant coach Adam Dennis said Wednesday of the Battalion’s 7-4 setback to the visiting Ottawa 67’s, who boast the Ontario Hockey League’s best record.

“The discipline in the first two games was not something representative of our squad and where we want to be, so that’s something that’s going to need to be fixed, and I think we’d like to have a better defensive effort.”

The Battalion, which has a won-lost-extended record of 10-11-1 for 21 points, fifth in the Central Division, lost a 1-0 decision last Thursday night to the host Barrie Colts before the visiting Sudbury Wolves posted a 7-1 victory Friday night.

“We keep all sorts of stats,” noted Dennis. “The most alarming one was the amount of 50-50 battles that we lost, so opportunities when you’ve got an even chance at a puck, and we were coming out on the wrong side of those. I think the goaltending that we’ve had over the course of the year has been better than it’s shown (last) weekend, so that’s something that both guys are going to want to get back on.”

Goaltender Christian Propp made 34 saves at Barrie before Christian Purboo provided 35 in the loss to Sudbury and Propp surrendered the seven goals to Ottawa on 31 shots.

Mason Primeau, acquired Thursday in a trade with the Guelph Storm, was thrown into action that night at Barrie before scoring against each of Sudbury and Ottawa while centring a line with right winger Brandon Coe. Adam McMaster played left wing against Barrie and Sudbury before centring right winger Justin Brazeau and left winger Brad Chenier against Ottawa as Matthew Struthers began serving a suspension. Left winger Harrison Caines got the call with Primeau and Coe.

“We played five or six years together in minor hockey, and we always played on the same line too, so it’s pretty refreshing and it’s fun to be back with him,” Primeau said of Coe. “Obviously, I have some history with Brandon, so it was a pretty easy transition as far as that goes, and hopefully we can continue it.”

The Battalion took Coe third overall in the 2017 OHL Priority Selection from the Toronto Nationals minor midgets before Guelph selected Primeau with the first pick of the second round, 22nd overall because of a compensatory pick in the first round.

“I think I play a good two-way power forward game,” said Primeau, who has five goals and four assists for nine points in 23 games this season. “I think, with continued play and opportunity, I’ll be able to bring some scoring.”

Dennis said that Primeau, a 17-year-old who stands six-foot-five and weighs 203 pounds, has fit in well after being acquired for two second-round OHL Priority Selection picks.

“He’s a guy that we see not only impacting us for years to come but this year as well. It’s nice to see him get rewarded. It’s important to remember too it’s his first real week of practice with our team, so there’s some familiarity; there’s some talk over strategies and figuring out systems.”

Dennis said the Troops will need a full effort against Saginaw, as well as in a road date Friday night with the Mississauga Steelheads and a home game Sunday against Guelph.

“They’re a highly skilled team, so I think, to our previous discussion, stay out of the box,” Dennis noted of Saginaw. “That’s going to be big, and I think we’re going to have to have a full team going. We can’t have a couple of players taking the night off; we need everybody going. We’re a team that can’t have any passengers and, quite frankly, I think (last) weekend we had too many passengers.”

Brazeau leads the Battalion in points production with 20 goals and 22 assists for 42 points in 22 games, ranking second in the OHL scoring race two points ahead of Ottawa’s Tye Felhaber before the 67’s hosted the Oshawa Generals on Wednesday night. Brazeau has 87 career goals, one fewer than Brett McKenzie, the franchise record holder in the North Bay era.

Chris Lazary is to make his head coaching debut with Saginaw in opening a three-game road trip. Dave Drinkill, the Spirit’s general manager, announced Sunday that Troy Smith had been fired and succeeded by associate coach Lazary, 36.

Saginaw is 11-9-2 for 24 points, tied with the Windsor Spitfires for second place in the West Division and coming off two consecutive losses, 5-2 Friday night to the host Kitchener Rangers and 5-1 at home Saturday night to Windsor.

Fans are encouraged to take non-perishable food items to Memorial Gardens or to make donations as the Coach4Food collection blitz is launched. Minor hockey teams are to collect food donations throughout North Bay from Thursday until Dec. 1.

In other news, left winger Egor Postnov, 18, has been released after clearing waivers Monday and has joined the Lincoln Stars of the United States Hockey League. The Moscow native, a first-round pick in the Canadian Hockey League Import Draft in June, scored one goal and earned six assists for seven points in 17 games with the Troops.

The Battalion roster now stands at 24, numbering 13 forwards, nine defencemen and two goaltenders.

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