Troops welcome home date

NORTH BAY, Ont. – The North Bay Battalion plays host to the Kingston Frontenacs in the fourth game of their Ontario Hockey League first-round playoff series at 7 p.m. Thursday.

It will be the Battalion’s first game at Memorial Gardens since March 8, before the building was converted for use as the venue for the World Women’s Curling Championship, which ended last Sunday when Canada captured the title.

With Kingston leading the best-of-seven Eastern Conference quarterfinal two games to one after a 4-1 victory Tuesday night at the Sudbury Community Arena, the Troops’ borrowed home for the game, the return to true home ice is entirely welcome.

“We’re excited to play a home game,” Battalion coach Stan Butler said Wednesday. “Obviously, it’s been a long process here but, at the same time, it’s been great for the city. We got national and world exposure – not quite the numbers that some people said we got, but we did get a fair amount. We’re excited about playing in our own rink now and having a true home game.

“It’s been a long time since we played here and, obviously we (have) the 7th Man, as we like to call them. We think we have really good fans here, and they’re really supportive of us. We know they’ll be very supportive of us tomorrow night, and I think any time you’re in a series, and you’re down two to one, it’s always great to be playing at home and have your home fans behind you.”

Jason Robertson and Gabriel Vilardi each had two goals and one assist before a crowd of 1,145 at Sudbury, including a goal and an assist each as Kingston converted both segments of a two-man advantage early in the second period for a 2-0 lead. Vilardi scored again in the final minute of the frame before Jake Henderson and Robertson traded third-period goals.

“I thought our first period was quite good,” said Butler. “We just couldn’t score.

“I think there’s two things we’ve got to do. To score early would be good, and then the other thing is we can’t take penalties where we’re down two men. It’s just tough to do.”

Coach Jay Varady’s Frontenacs boasted the league’s top-ranked power play, as well as the second-rated penalty killers, during the regular season.

The Battalion gained a split of the first two games at Kingston, winning 5-2 last Friday night before dropping the second game 4-3 Sunday night.

“Our biggest thing tomorrow is we’ve got to regroup, like they did after Game 1, and realize that it’s the first team to four (wins); it’s not the first team to two or three, so you’ve just got to keep going,” Butler said Tuesday night.

“I appreciate the City of Sudbury and the Wolves for accommodating us under a tough situation. They were just first-class. If we can’t play in North Bay, then my second-favourite place to play is here.”

Left winger Adam McMaster leads North Bay in scoring with four points from as many assists. Right winger Henderson and left winger Luke Burghardt have two goals and one assist for three points apiece, while defenceman Jesse Saban has three assists for three points.

Left winger Brad Chenier has one goal and one assist for two points, and centre Matthew Struthers has matched that points total with two assists.

Right wingers Justin Brazeau, who led the team with 39 regular-season goals, and Brandon Coe, centre Kyle Potts and defenceman Nick King have produced the other Battalion goals.

Centre Vilardi leads Kingston with two goals and three assists for five points. Right winger Robertson, left winger Linus Nyman and centre Cliff Pu have four points each, Robertson having scored three goals and Nyman two.

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