Troops ‘didn’t have quit in them’

NORTH BAY, Ont. – A day after a playoff game for the ages, the North Bay Battalion had plenty to talk about.

The Kingston Frontenacs defeated the visiting Battalion 6-5 on Gabriel Vilardi’s goal at 14:05 of the third overtime period Saturday night to end the third-longest game in Ontario Hockey League history.

North Bay, which trailed 2-0 early, took a 4-2 lead into the third period before Kingston tied it and Justin Brazeau gave the Troops a 5-4 lead with his club-record fourth goal of a postseason game late in the third frame. With goaltender Jeremy Helvig on the bench for a sixth attacker, the Frontenacs’ Sean Day precipitated overtime with his second goal of the game at 19:40, beating Battalion goaltender Christian Propp through heavy traffic.

Kingston outshot the Battalion 44-19 in overtime for a total-game margin of 77-51 as Propp produced the finest goaltending display in the Troops’ 20-year history.

“I think what happened in the first overtime period was our guys were a little down about what happened at the end of the game and, to be honest with you, other than Propp, I think it took us a period to recover from that, and they really dominated us in the first overtime period, and Propper was amazing,” coach Stan Butler said Sunday as the Battalion prepared for exit interviews after being eliminated four games to one in the best-of-seven Eastern Conference quarterfinal.

“In the second and third overtime periods, although they carried the play, it was a little bit more even and we did have some chances, so I think the guys got refocused and they did a great job.”

The Battalion, without the suspended Luke Burghardt and Brandon Coe, sidelined with a concussion from a dirty hit into the boards by Liam Murray in Game 3, had several players skating hurt. Brad Chenier played with a swollen hand from blocking a shot in the third game, while Daniel Walker had a broken hand taped. Riley Bruce played with a sore groin.

“We were really short players,” said Butler, who dressed seven defencemen, including Eric Allair, who was summoned after finishing the season with the junior A Powassan Voodoos and got one shift at left wing.

“We basically only had 11 forwards dressed. One was Chenier, who couldn’t hold his stick. Another was Walker, playing with a broken hand with a cast on it that I don’t really know how he could hold his stick as well.”

Butler praised the sixth-place Battalion’s performance in facing the third-place Frontenacs, who loaded up for a postseason run.

“I think this group got as much out of it as it could, and as a coach you’re always proud of your team that does that. They played right to their utmost capabilities. We gave a team that was a lot more talented and a lot older a heck of a go in a playoff series and, with a bounce here or there, we could still be playing hockey.”

Said Butler: “Our guys got down two goals early too and could have quit, and these guys didn’t have quit in them.”

Butler took the view that Propp, who was acquired in an Oct. 22 trade from the Owen Sound Attack and turned 19 last Tuesday, “learned a lot from this series,” which constituted his first OHL playoff action.

“He learned what it takes. He saw Helvig at the other end, and I think the future looks good for us. I don’t think we’re concerned at all moving forward here. We’re pretty comfortable feeling that we have a No. 1 goalie that will be one of the top (goaltenders). There’s no reason he can’t be one of the top goalies in the league.”

Propp, who faced 20 shots in the first overtime period alone, including the first 11 of the session, suggested that he enjoyed the test.

“It’s a first for me, but it was kind of a whirlwind game. You know, it wasn’t a whirlwind game; it was a whirlwind two games. I’ve never experienced that, and I don’t think anyone else in the room’s experienced that before, so it was kind of surreal.

“For me it was kind of a mental mindset. It was just focusing on one shot at a time and just doing whatever it takes to make that one save. It was a next-goal-wins situation, so for me it was just worrying about one puck at a time.

“It was fun out there, you know. There were a lot of high sticks, but playing a team like that with so many exceptional players – Gabe Vilardi, Cliff Pu – I just kind of took the challenge and just tried to do whatever it took to keep the game tied.”

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