Troops beat ‘Birds in shootout

NORTH BAY, Ont. — Adam McMaster and Adam Thilander scored in a shootout to lift the North Bay Battalion to a 4-3 victory over the Flint Firebirds in Ontario Hockey League action Thursday night.

Luke Burghardt and Matthew Struthers each provided one goal and one assist and Kyle Potts also scored for the Battalion, which wore the black-based uniforms of the Centennials, North Bay’s original OHL franchise, which became the Saginaw Spirit in 2002.

Goaltender Christian Propp made 25 saves through overtime for the Battalion, which improved its won-lost-extended record to 24-21-7 for 55 points, third in the Central Division and fifth in the Eastern Conference, two points ahead of the idle Oshawa Generals. The Troops are 11-2-1 in their last 14 games.

Jalen Smereck had two goals and one assist and C.J. Clarke the other regulation-time goal for Flint, 16-30-5 for 37 points, last in the West Division and the Western Conference. Goaltender Garrett Forrest faced 40 shots through overtime before 2,307 at Memorial Gardens.

Battalion coach Stan Butler lauded the work done with the Firebirds by Ryan Oulahen, a former assistant with the Troops.

“I thought it was a pretty evenly played game. The one thing about Ryan’s team is he does a great job with preparation, and they were hard on the puck the whole game. You can tell that they’re going to be an up-and-coming, really strong team with a lot of good young players.”

Smereck forced overtime with a power-play goal that sneaked through traffic at 19:58 of the third period and Flint skating six against four with Forrest on the bench. Maurizio Colella and Ty Dellandrea assisted on defenceman Smereck’s eighth goal of the season.

Struthers struck at 9:49 to give the Troops a 3-2 lead, taking a Burghardt pass from deep in the right-wing circle off a rush and converting from the open left side. It was Struthers’s 15th goal and sixth since a Jan. 3 trade from the Owen Sound Attack.

Justin Brazeau, in the first eight seconds, and McMaster hit iron behind Forrest in overtime, in which North Bay had a 5-1 edge in shots, before Colella connected as the first shooter in the shootout. Propp then denied Clarke and Dellandrea, the latter with a stellar glove grab. The McMaster and Thilander tallies sandwiched an unsuccessful Brazeau attempt.

Clarke, on his 19th birthday, gave the visitors a 2-1 lead at 2:52 of the second period on a breakaway, but Burghardt replied with the man advantage at 18:16, driving up the slot to snap home his 24th goal on assists by Jesse Saban and Struthers. It was the fourth power play of the period for the Battalion and the only one on which it scored.

The teams swapped first-period goals, with Potts striking first, 59 seconds after the opening faceoff. Jake Henderson fed the puck from behind the goal line to the left of the net, and Potts deposited his ninth goal past Forrest. McMaster had the other assist.

Smereck responded unassisted at 12:29, lobbing the puck through a screen from the blue line.

Propp made back-to-back stops against Clarke and Jacob Collins at the left side of the crease, smothering the puck at 3:42. McMaster was foiled on a breakaway in the 14th minute, and Brandon Coe, who gauged the shot, couldn’t get the disc over the sprawling Forrest in the 15th.

The Battalion opens a two-game road trip with a visit to the Peterborough Petes at 7:05 p.m. Saturday. The game can be seen live in North Bay on YourTV Channels 12 and 700 and heard on Country 600 CKAT.

BATTALION BULLETS: Centennials star Vitali Yachmenev conducted the ceremonial faceoff with Margi Woods Clarke and Shawn Walsh of the Canadian Mental Health Association … The Troops are 4-1-0 when wearing Centennials colours, as they have done once each season since moving to the Gateway of the North … The Battalion completed its schedule against Western Conference teams, going 8-10-4. The Battalion was 5-5-2 against the West Division and 3-5-2 against the Midwest Division … The Troops won 5-1 at Flint on Nov. 3 as Potts scored two goals … Luke Moncada, who faced a two-game suspension for purportedly engaging the Guelph Storm’s Nate Schnarr in a second fight in the same stoppage during a melee in the visiting Storm’s 3-2 overtime win Sunday, had a game misconduct and the suspension rescinded … The Battalion went 1-for-5 on the power play. Flint was 1-for-4 … Opening lines featured Struthers centring left winger Burghardt and right winger Brazeau, Potts centring left winger McMaster and right winger Henderson and Moncada pivoting left winger Brad Chenier and right winger Coe. Patrick Brown centred left winger Daniel Walker and right winger Andy Baker … The Battalion scratched Simon Rose, Kurtis Evans and Rhys Forhan, who had flu … Dellandrea has a six-game points streak during which he has five goals and as many assists for 10 points.

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