Sime sublime in blanking of ‘Birds

NORTH BAY, Ont. — Goaltender Julian Sime made 35 saves for his first Ontario Hockey League shutout, backstopping the North Bay Battalion to a 6-0 victory Thursday night over the Flint Firebirds.

Justin Brazeau scored two goals and added one assist, while Brett McKenzie, Daniil Vertiy and Kyle Potts each had one goal and one assist for the Battalion, which got its other goal from Steve Harland. North Bay has a won-lost-extended record of 15-12-2 for 32 points atop the Central Division.

Sime’s shutout, before 2,313 at Memorial Gardens, was the Battalion’s first since last Jan. 29, when Jake Smith stopped 21 shots in a 4-0 road win over the Guelph Storm.

Flint goaltender Garrett Forrest faced 25 shots as the Firebirds, coached by former Battalion assistant Ryan Oulahen, lost a third consecutive game to slip to 14-13-2 for 30 points, fourth in the West Division.

“The game was a lot closer than the score,” said Battalion coach Stan Butler. “It seemed that every bounce in the game went our way. Sometimes you get those games and, luckily, when the bounces went our way we took advantage of them. It was one of our better games at home.”

Sime’s shutout came in his third OHL start. The 18-year-old posted one shutout in 20 games this season with the Mississauga Chargers of the Ontario Junior Hockey League before being acquired in light of injuries to Brent Moran and Mat Woroniuk.

“He was great,” Butler said of Sime, who earned his second win. “He was square to the puck all night. He reminded me a lot of Smith, quick like a cat and fast, and he was covering his rebounds and making the game as easy as possible for his defencemen.”

The Troops got off to a 2-0 first-period lead on special teams, with McKenzie scoring shorthanded and Harland on the power play. McKenzie raced in alone on Forrest and beat him with a wrister high to the stick side at 6:19. Riley Bruce earned the lone assist on the 14th goal of the season for McKenzie, who has three of the Battalion’s five shorthanded goals.

Zach Poirier directed a McKenzie pass to Harland, who ripped the puck past a sliding Forrest from deep in the left-wing circle for a team-leading 17th goal at 15:41.

The Firebirds, who outshot the Troops 11-7, had most of their shots early in the period as Poirier was whistled for two penalties by the 5:42 mark. Sime turned away chances for Mathieu Henderson, Ryan Moore, Fedor Gordeev and Alex Peters.

The second period was scoreless until the 19th minute, when the Battalion struck for two goals 15 seconds apart. Brazeau gathered the rebound of a Bruce shot off the end glass and stuffed the puck inside the left post at 18:59, with Daniel Walker earning the second assist, and Vertiy snapped the puck over Forrest’s right shoulder off a rush. Brazeau and Potts drew assists on Vertiy’s sixth goal.

Sime continued his fine play, facing 14 shots in the frame. He kicked away a Kole Sherwood drive in the fifth minute, got the right pad on a breakaway chance for Nicholas Caamano in the eighth and foiled Jacob Collins off the right wing in the 12th. Sime also made stops against Henderson and Ty Dellandrea.

Brazeau capitalized on a two-man advantage at 2:14 of the third period as Brady Lyle’s pass from below the goal line glanced off the right skate of Brazeau at the lip of the crease. Adam McMaster was credited with the second assist on Brazeau’s seventh goal.

Potts finished the scoring at 13:28, beating Forrest high to the glove side from the top of the left circle. Vertiy had the only assist on Potts’s sixth goal.

Sime denied Caamano at the goalmouth in the first minute and made consecutive saves in close on Hunter Holmes with little more than a minute left to play.

The Battalion visits the Oshawa Generals at 7:35 p.m. Friday. The game can be seen live on CogecoTV Channel 12 and heard on Country 600 CKAT.

BATTALION BULLETS: Logan Sawka, on loan from the Espanola Express of the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League, backed up Sime. Sawka is 2-7-1 in 12 games for Espanola with a 3.58 goals-against average and a .919 save percentage … In 225 games, McKenzie has 64 goals and 78 assists for 142 points, 18th in Battalion history. McKenzie has eight shorthanded goals, fourth in franchise history … Harland has an eight-game points streak, longest among the Troops this season, during which he has six goals and three assists for nine points … Potts has three goals and three assists for six points in the last three games … North Bay went 2-for-4 on the power play. Flint was 0-for-4 … In addition to Moran and Woroniuk, the Battalion was without Eric Allair, Jacob Ball and Max Kislinger … Moran, with a sore shoulder, and Woroniuk, with an injured leg, have undergone magnetic resonance imaging exams … The Battalion traded the rights to Forrest and a fourth-round OHL Priority Selection pick in 2017 to Flint on Aug. 22 for Moran. Forrest, who never played for the Troops, starred last season with the NOJHL’s Powassan Voodoos … Henderson leads OHL defencemen in points with 32, from seven goals and 25 assists … Moore saw the end of a nine-game points streak during which he had two goals and 10 assists … The Battalion is to hold its teddy bear toss Sunday when the Windsor Spitfires visit at 2 p.m.

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