BRAMPTON, Ont. – It was a classic David vs. Goliath matchup in the third period of the Brampton Battalion’s Ontario Hockey League game against the Kingston Frontenacs on Thursday night.
Battalion right winger Michael Santini, at five-foot-nine and 170 pounds, engaged in a duel with Kingston defenceman Taylor Doherty, who measures six-foot-eight, 230 pounds.
The Frontenacs led 4-2 when Santini barreled over Kingston’s Clark Seymour just inside the Battalion blue line, stripped him of the puck and took off to challenge Doherty, a second-round pick of the San Jose Sharks in the National Hockey League’s 2009 Entry Draft who has signed a three-year contract with the club.
“The puck came to Seymour, and I knocked him down,” Santini said Friday as the Battalion prepared to visit the Owen Sound Attack at 7:30 p.m. Saturday. “I don’t think he expected me to come up from behind and hit him.”
Faced with Doherty, Santini faked a slap shot, escaped the defender and put a wrister over the glove of goaltender Franky Palazzese to pull the Troops within one at 11:25.
“Doherty is a huge guy,” noted Santini. “I was just trying to get a shot off. I tried the fake slap shot, and he bit on it. I pulled the puck back and shot it. I knew I had to do something. That’s one of the biggest goals I’ve ever scored. I’ll remember that a long time.”
Sean Jones tied the game at 14:38 when his shot deflected off Doherty’s stick, and Ian Watters’s second goal of the game, on the power play at 19:07, propelled the Battalion to a 5-4 victory, its fourth consecutive win.
“We’ve been patient with guys like Santini and Watters, and it looks like it’s paying off,” said head coach Stan Butler.
Santini scored two goals, the first coming from a spot where he figures to produce most of his offence. In the deep slot, he converted the rebound of a Zack Bell point shot late in the first period.
“That was a pretty easy goal for me,” said Santini, who has four goals on the season, tied with Jones for the team lead. “The puck just came to me, and I put it in. That’s where I’m supposed to be on that play. I’m a small guy who has to go to the net and look for the rebounds. You get bumped around a lot, but it can be worth it at the end.”
A 19-year-old resident of Woodbridge, Ont., Santini scored two goals in a 4-3 overtime win over the host Niagara IceDogs last Saturday night. He’d been a healthy scratch for a 5-2 decision over the visiting Peterborough Petes the previous night.
“That woke me up,” said Santini, whose rights were acquired in January. “I had to come out hard. The coaches wanted to see me produce. I think I’m showing people I can score in the OHL.”
Butler said he thinks Santini got the message.
“He’s here to be an offensive player. He’s not a big, physical guy, so his strength is offence.”
The Troops used a 9-3 drubbing of the host Barrie Colts on Sept. 30 to open a stretch of three wins in as many days. Jones said he hoped the comeback against Kingston will have a similar effect against the Attack, which has a torrid Scott Stajcer in goal. The Battalion hosts the Mississauga St. Michael’s Majors in the traditional Thanksgiving Day game at 2 p.m. Monday.
“It’s always good to get a start like this,” said Jones. “That really puts us on a high wave. We’ll be underdogs against Owen Sound and Mississauga because they’re both pretty good teams. But we’ve worked hard for the last four games.”
The Owen Sound game can be seen live in Brampton on Rogers Cable 10 and in Bolton, Caledon and Orangeville on Rogers Cable 63.