Streaking ‘Hounds edge Troops

SAULT STE. MARIE, Ont. — Boris Katchouk’s goal at 18:18 of the first period proved to be the winner as the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds extended their franchise-record winning streak to 16 games with a 3-1 Ontario Hockey League victory Friday night over the North Bay Battalion.

Morgan Frost scored an empty-net goal and contributed an assist, while Mac Hollowell also scored for Sault Ste. Marie, which moved its won-lost-extended record to 25-3-2 for 52 points atop the West Division, Western Conference and league. Goaltender Tyler Johnson faced 28 shots before a crowd of 3,620.

The Greyhounds, 13-1-1 at home, haven’t lost since a 6-3 setback Oct. 27 to the host Sarnia Sting. Sault Ste. Marie hasn’t lost in regulation time at home since dropping a 7-4 decision to the Oshawa Generals in its season opener Sept. 23.

Luke Burghardt scored the lone goal for North Bay, and goaltender Julian Sime provided 37 saves, shaking off a blast to the mask in the second period. The Battalion is 10-16-4 for 24 points, third in the Central Division.

It was the last of four season meetings between the teams, after Sault Ste. Marie defeated the host Battalion 2-1 in overtime Sept. 29, won 3-1 at the Essar Centre on Nov. 5 and prevailed 5-4 in overtime Nov. 16 at Memorial Gardens.

“Julian played all four games against the Sault this year and played very well in them,” said Battalion coach Stan Butler. “Both games here were the same score, 3-1 with an empty-netter.”

Burghardt opened the scoring at 9:58 of the first period on a second effort at the rebound of a Cam Dineen shot from high on the left wing. Referee Ryan Elbers went to video review, but it was determined that, while the puck went off Burghardt’s skate, there was no kicking motion. Justin Brazeau also assisted on Burghardt’s 12th goal of the season.

Defenceman Hollowell tied it at 14:10, beating Sime low to the stick side with a wrister from the right-wing circle off a rush, and Katchouk put the Greyhounds in front to stay with his team-leading 25th goal when he snapped the puck past Sime’s glove from the slot. Cole MacKay and Frost assisted.

Sime faced the tougher chances in the frame, but he was sharp against Katchouk, Barrett Hayton, Jack Kopacka, Conor Timmins and Noah Carroll. Brandon Coe had two good opportunities for the Troops, while Adam McMaster fired wide on a two-on-one rush.

The Greyhounds outshot North Bay 18-7 in the scoreless second period. Sime denied Katchouk, Ryan Roth, Zack Trott, Hayden Verbeek and MacKay, resolutely staying in the game after taking a Kopacka drive flush on the mask at 11:27. The Battalion, whose penalty killers nullified a double minor for high-sticking issued to Simon Rose at 13:55, tested Johnson with shots from Coe, Brad Chenier and Nick King.

Each team had 13 shots in the final frame, but the Troops had the better chances as they stormed the offensive zone in search of the tying goal. Johnson foiled McMaster on a wraparound, turned away Brett McKenzie at the lip of the crease and survived McKenzie, Brazeau and Burghardt banging at the puck in the goalmouth. McKenzie was repelled on a two-on-one rush, and Andy Baker was stopped on a drive to the net off the right wing.

North Bay killed a tripping call against Adam Thilander at 16:12, and Sime went to the bench for a sixth skater in the final minute, but Frost finished the scoring, fighting off McMaster, Dineen and Thilander to hit the vacant net at 19:30.

The Battalion plays host to the Barrie Colts at 2 p.m. Sunday when the Hamelin’s Outdoor Power Equipment Teddy Bear Toss will be held. One fan will win a Cub Cadet snow thrower, valued at $1,750, by purchasing a Battalion program, courtesy of Hamelin’s, which will have a limited number of free bears available in the main concourse. Stuffed toys also can be purchased for $10 in the north concourse.

BATTALION BULLETS: Chenier laid out Joe Carroll with a clean check at 14:57 of the third period, making for some testiness in the final minutes … Sault Ste. Marie was 0-for-3 on the power play, while Elbers and partner Mike Cairns deemed that the ’Hounds committed no fouls … Opening lines featured McKenzie centring left winger Burghardt and right winger Brazeau, McMaster pivoting left winger Chenier and right winger Baker and Kyle Potts centring left winger Luke Moncada and right winger Coe. Patrick Brown centred Rose, normally a defenceman, on left wing and Kurtis Evans on right wing … North Bay was without Eric Allair, Rhys Forhan, Daniel Walker and Alex Robert … Johnson, 6-0-0 with Sault Ste. Marie, was acquired Oct. 17 from the London Knights with three OHL Priority Selection picks for goaltender Joseph Raaymakers … Matthew Villalta, who backed up Johnson, leads OHL goaltenders with a 2.52 goals-against average. He is 18-2-1 with a .907 save percentage and one shutout … Frost has six-game points and assists streaks during which he has four goals and 14 assists for 18 points … Katchouk has a seven-game points streak in which he has seven goals and four assists for 11 points … Among the Greyhounds’ scratches was Tim Gettinger, who left a 6-3 home-ice win Wednesday night over Sarnia with a lower-body injury. He has 17 goals and 14 assists for 31 points in 29 games.

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