Troops rally to snap skid
NORTH BAY, Ont. — Justin Brazeau scored two goals and added an assist to help lift the North Bay Battalion to a wild comeback 8-5 victory Thursday night over the Kitchener Rangers, ending the Troops’ Ontario Hockey League losing streak at seven games.
Daniel Walker and Brad Chenier scored two goals apiece, Adam McMaster and Matthew Struthers each recorded one goal and one assist and Nick King contributed three assists for North Bay, which has a won-lost-extended record of 12-18-2 for 26 points, fifth in the Central Division.
Goaltender Christian Propp faced 32 shots before a crowd of 2,044 as the Battalion, which twice trailed by two goals but scored the last five, won for the first time since downing the host Mississauga Steelheads 5-2 on Nov. 23.
Jonathan Yantsis scored three goals, Joseph Garreffa had one goal and one assist and Rickard Hugg also scored for Kitchener, 13-16-3 for 29 points, fourth in the Midwest Division. Goaltender Luke Richardson made 23 saves for the Rangers, who have lost three straight games since defeating the visiting Battalion 4-2 last Friday night.
“It’s been a month for us of a lot of coming from behind, so to say we’re used to it would be a bit of an understatement,” said assistant coach Adam Dennis, whose Troops played at home for the first time in seven games. “But it was good to see us keep pushing and hold on to a lead in the third. It was a credit to our group that we’re continuing to push through and continuing to battle regardless of the score.”
The Battalion, which trailed 5-4 after 40 minutes, tied it at 2:52 of the third period as Brazeau, having darted between Kyle Gentles and Donovan Sebrango, flicked a backhander past Richardson. Assists on Brazeau’s team-leading 28th goal of the season went to King and Luke Burghardt, who earned his first point of the season.
Walker raced in on a breakaway and put the puck past Richardson high to the stick side at 5:08 for the winning goal. King and Patrick Brown assisted on Walker’s sixth goal.
Richardson failed to handle Chenier’s rising shot from the top of the left-wing circle, and the puck trickled over the goal line at 10:00. King and Mason Primeau drew assists on Chenier’s 14th goal.
Richardson went to the bench for a sixth skater with 1:50 left to play and, seconds after Propp denied in-close chances for Hugg and Yantsis, Struthers finished the scoring into the empty net at 18:48. The unassisted goal was Struthers’s 15th.
The teams combined for six goals in a span of 5:20 in the second period, which opened with Kitchener holding a 2-1 lead.
McMaster tied it at 2:38, finishing off a two-on-one rush with Brazeau by converting from the left circle. Struthers had the second assist on McMaster’s 13th goal.
Chenier put the Troops in front at 4:08 when his low shot from the left boards slid under Richardson’s pads. Pacey Schlueting earned the lone assist.
The Rangers responded with three goals in 1:30. Hugg swept a Nick McHugh feed past Propp in the slot at 4:43, and Yantsis, netting his team-high 23rd goal, beat Propp with a high backhander off a breakaway at 5:23. Defenceman Garreffa beat Propp low to the stick side from the right circle at 6:13.
Brazeau ripped a wrister off the right wing past Richardson’s blocker at 7:58. McMaster and Braden Henderson picked up assists.
Yantsis gave Kitchener a 2-0 lead in the first period, redirecting a left-point drive by Gentles at 1:34 and slamming home a Garreffa pass on a backdoor play deep in the left circle with the Troops two men short at 12:53. Greg Meireles earned his first of two assists on the play.
Walker replied at 14:52, shoveling home his own rebound with Theo Calvas and Brandon Coe earning assists.
The Battalion visits the Barrie Colts at 7:30 p.m. Saturday to open a home-and-home series. The game can be seen live in North Bay on YourTV Channels 12 and 700 and heard on Country 600 CKAT.
BATTALION BULLETS: Home Depot Night saw 2,000 fans receive cowbells from the game sponsor. A total of 150 player-autographed pucks were for sale, with one signed in gold pen by Brazeau worth a $100 gift card. Ryobi equipment made up the prizes in a shootout … Attendance was the smallest ever for a Battalion home game at Memorial Gardens. The previous low of 2,135 was set Dec. 7, 2017, during a 4-3 win over Mississauga … The Battalion scored eight goals for the second time this season, the first an 8-3 win Oct. 21 over the visiting Kingston Frontenacs … Struthers played his 200th OHL game, made up of 145 with the Owen Sound Attack and 55 with the Battalion since a trade last Jan. 3. He was a third-round pick by Owen Sound in the 2015 OHL Priority Selection from the Halton Hurricanes minor midgets … Burghardt saw his first home-ice action since returning to play from a spinal condition that prompted him to quit hockey last summer before he sought further medical opinions … The Battalion power play went 0-for-2. Kitchener was 1-for-5 … The Battalion was without Travis Mailhot, Rhys Forhan, David Maier and Harrison Caines … Among the missing for Kitchener were Connor Hall and Riley Damiani. Hall is gone for the season with an upper-body injury, while Damiani is serving a five-game suspension for flipping a puck into the stands … In two games against North Bay, Meireles had five assists.