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Troops to soldier on without Lyle

NORTH BAY, Ont. — The North Bay Battalion, on a six-game Ontario Hockey League losing streak, will entertain the streaking Sarnia Sting at 7 p.m. Thursday without defenceman Brady Lyle, who has asked for a trade.

Stan Butler, Battalion director of hockey operations and head coach, said Wednesday that Lyle, a North Bay native, “has requested a trade, was concerned about his ice time and how he was being used, so at this time right now we’re trying to accommodate that request and trying to upgrade our team as well as accommodate Brady’s request.”

Lyle, 18, was the Battalion’s first-round pick, 18th overall, in the 2015 OHL Priority Selection from Shattuck-St. Mary’s, a private school in Faribault, Minn., for which he played two seasons, winning the United States under-16 championship in 2014-15.

Lyle, six-foot-one and 206 pounds, has two goals in nine games this season. In 111 games over two-plus seasons, he has seven goals and 30 assists for 37 points.

“At the end of the day, you don’t want people around that aren’t happy with their role on the team,” said Butler. “Brady’s a really good kid, and hopefully we can find a good spot for Brady and (he) and his family will be extremely happy and so will the North Bay Battalion.”

Butler said that others should benefit.

“We still have seven defencemen here, and it’s going to give Travis Mailhot, who’s been cleared to play now, and Simon Rose more opportunity, and we get, hopefully, Payton Vescio up a little bit more to get his games in here, so we’ll go from that, and hopefully we can turn a request from Brady into a good front-line player for us at one of the three positions on the team.”

Mailhot, who suffered a shoulder injury in the preseason, has yet to make his OHL debut. Vescio, who played well in exhibition games, is with the affiliated Powassan Voodoos of the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League.

Butler said the dressing room has moved on from Lyle.

“They want players in the lineup that want to play here. Secondly, when every door closes, another door opens. So for a guy like Mailhot, who’s six-foot-five and a lot of the (National Hockey League) teams are itching to get to see him, a big right-shot defenceman, now this is going to give him opportunity to play, and you give Rose more opportunity and that will allow us to speed up Rose’s development and Vescio’s development, and that’ll be good for our team down the road.”

Butler said the Troops will look for equivalent value for Lyle.

“We’re going to make a trade based on what’s best for our team, and hopefully it happens quickly, but it takes two people to make a trade, and you’ve got to have a trading partner and you’ve got to feel the value is fair for both sides in order to make that trade.”

Butler said that left winger Brett McKenzie, who sat out the last two games with a lower-body injury, is expected to return to the lineup against Sarnia, which has a won-lost-extended record of 9-1-0 for 18 points in the West Division, the top showing in the league.

Coach Derian Hatcher, a onetime member of the North Bay Centennials, has Sarnia off to the best start in its history, including a current eight-game winning streak. The Sting has been credited with an OHL-high 51 goals while being charged with a league-low 25, with overager Justin Fazio and backup Aidan Hughes in net.

“They’re an extremely fast team,” noted Butler. “They have highly skilled forwards and a good goalie.”

The Battalion is 3-4-2 for eight points, third in the Central Division, and is 0-4-2 in its last six outings.

“We got off to a good start and won three games, but in those games I’m not so sure we played great but we won them, and then in some of the other games that we’ve lost, quite frankly, I think we’ve played pretty well in them and we haven’t won them, so it’s kind of a funny start,” said Butler.

The Battalion completes its weekend schedule by visiting the Mississauga Steelheads at 7 p.m. Friday and playing host to the Kingston Frontenacs at 2 p.m. Sunday.

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