NORTH BAY, Ont. — Blake Murray scored three goals, including the winner, to power the Sudbury Wolves to a 7-1 Ontario Hockey League decision Friday night over the North Bay Battalion on Chris Neil Night at Memorial Gardens.
Nolan Hutcheson scored two goals and added one assist, David Levin had one goal and two assists and Shane Bulitka provided one goal and one assist for Sudbury, which won a third straight game to improve its won-lost-extended record to 13-6-2 for 28 points, tied with the Mississauga Steelheads atop the Central Division. Goaltender Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen faced 21 shots.
Mason Primeau scored for North Bay, 10-10-1 for 21 points, fifth in the division. Goaltender Christian Purboo made 35 saves before a crowd of 2,645, many of whom were there to renew acquaintances with Neil, a onetime North Bay Centennials fan favourite.
“I’m embarrassed,” said Battalion assistant coach Adam Dennis. “We weren’t very disciplined.
“Maybe we didn’t deserve all of them, but I don’t know how you win a game when you take eight penalties and two are majors. We started to push when the game was 3-1, and then we took a five-minute penalty. We killed off most of it and took another penalty. We weren’t ready to play. We have to start on time. There’s no excuse for that.”
Sudbury, which outshot the Troops 18-8 in the first period, built a 3-1 lead, starting when Bulitka connected at 5:09, cruising alone across the goalmouth and depositing a Levin pass over Purboo’s blocker.
Murray struck for what proved to be the winner on the power play at 10:48, sweeping an Anthony Tabak feed past Purboo’s glove from the right circle, and Levin moved into the mid slot to put a low wrister off the right post into the net at 16:46 for his team-leading 11th goal of the season.
Primeau, acquired in a trade Thursday from the Guelph Storm, scored his first Battalion goal at 17:30, standing with his back to the net to redirect a Simon Rose left-point shot past Luukkonen’s blocker from deep in the left circle. David Maier also assisted on Primeau’s fourth goal on the campaign.
The Wolves thought they had restored their three-goal lead at 6:21 of the second period. Drew Wawrow pursued his own rebound, chipping the puck off Purboo’s right arm, and the disc rolled into the crease where Pacey Schlueting cleared it off the goal line. Referee Jason Faist signaled a goal but, after a talk with the video goal judge, saw the decision overturned.
The Troops ran into penalty trouble midway in the frame. Matthew Struthers received a match penalty for kicking and a game misconduct at 11:53, and Justin Brazeau went off on a weak checking-from-behind call properly meant for Brad Chenier at 16:03. Purboo rarely was tested as the Battalion killed the major and a two-man disadvantage lasting 50 seconds, but Sudbury capitalized in the waning seconds of Brazeau’s minor as Hutcheson got loose from a neutral-zone faceoff and beat Purboo high to the stick side at 17:57.
The Battalion appeared to get back within two goals at the end of the period as Kurtis Evans broke in alone on Luukkonen and beat him over the blocker. Faist signaled a goal but, after another telephone conference, waved off the play. Replay showed that the green light marking the end of the period went on before the puck entered the net.
Hutcheson, in collecting his ninth goal, whipped a Bulitka pass past Purboo from deep in the left circle at 8:03 of the third period. Murray converted from the high slot as the trailer on a rush at 10:19 and completed the scoring on the power play at 14:01 after Daniel Walker was banished with a match penalty and game misconduct for what was called a deliberate attempt to injure. It was Murray’s eighth goal.
The Battalion plays host to the Ottawa 67’s, first in the East Division, Eastern Conference and league, at 3 p.m. Sunday.
BATTALION BULLETS: Neil is an alumni ambassador for the National Hockey League’s Ottawa Senators, who sponsored the night in his honour. Neil played three seasons with the Centennials culminating in 1998-99, scoring 65 goals and adding 91 assists for 156 points while drawing 596 penalty minutes. Scott Wray, a Battalion assistant coach, was a teammate of Neil for all three seasons. In 1,026 games in 15 seasons with Ottawa, ending in 2016-17, Neil had 112 goals and 138 assists for 250 points with 2,522 penalty minutes. He spoke to Battalion players before the game, signed autographs for fans in the concourse and conducted the ceremonial faceoff. Senators mascot Spartacat joined Sarge in tossing T-shirts to fans, and youngsters from Powassan and East Ferris, in the Little Sens Learn to Play program, took to the ice in the second intermission. The Senators provided an autographed Neil sweater for a raffle as well as six tickets to a Jan. 5 game against the Minnesota Wild, which were awarded to Battalion season ticket holders … The Battalion’s league-leading power play went 0-for-1, while Sudbury was 3-for-8 … The Battalion, which dressed 11 forwards and seven defencemen, scratched Travis Mailhot, Egor Postnov, Rhys Forhan, Nick King and Patrick Brown … Among the missing for Sudbury were Darian Pilon and Kirill Nizhnikov … Ben Moser was the other referee.