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Battalion blunts Flint for third straight win

NORTH BAY, Ont. – Mathew Santos scored two goals and added three assists to power the North Bay Battalion to a 6-3 Ontario Hockey League victory Sunday over the Flint Firebirds in the teams’ first meeting.

Mike Amadio had two goals and one assist and Max Kislinger and Brett McKenzie also scored for the Battalion, which won a third straight game to improve its won-lost-extended record to 12-10-2 for 26 points, fourth in the Central Division. Goaltender Jake Smith made 22 saves before 3,155 at Memorial Gardens.

Brady Lyle, a North Bay native who was the Battalion’s first-round pick in the OHL Priority Selection in April, made his debut on the blue line after recovering from a broken collarbone suffered in the first preseason game.

Francesco Vilardi scored two goals and Will Bitten one for Flint, which lost for the first time in four games and is 12-11-2 for 26 points, third in the West Division. Goaltender Alex Nedeljkovic faced 37 shots for the Firebirds, the former Plymouth Whalers.

“We were playing a really good game, and then we ran into some speed bumps in the second period,” said Battalion coach Stan Butler, alluding to penalty trouble the Troops encountered early in the frame.

“We had to overcome that and, even though we got some bad bounces in the third period, we rebounded and found a way to win, which is a positive sign.”

Amadio scored the first of three unanswered goals in the first period, in which the Battalion enjoyed a 13-5 edge in shots. Amadio, assisted by Daniil Vertiy and Santos, swept a loose puck past Nedeljkovic at 4:02.

Battalion penalty killers struck at 13:15 as Santos drove to the net and chipped a Miles Liberati feed beyond Nedeljkovic’s left pad. Amadio had the second assist on the Troops’ league-leading 13th shorthanded goal.

Santos got credit for the third goal, at 18:52, when his attempt at a cross-ice pass off the left wing appeared to carom off Connor Sills and Dane Johnstone before eluding Nedeljkovic. Liberati and Kyle Wood assisted on Santos’s fourth goal of the season.

Vilardi scored at 16:24 of the second period, getting credit for the goal when his pass from the left wing hit defender Zach Shankar and entered the net.

Flint enjoyed 5:52 of power-play time early in the period after Vertiy drew a major for checking from behind and a game misconduct at 11 seconds and Amadio went off for tripping at 4:03. In the 15th minute, Vilardi missed steering a Vili Saarijärvi feed into an open net from the goalmouth.

Vilardi pulled Flint within a goal at 8:31 of the third period, racing to the net and snapping the rebound of a Sills shot over Smith’s left shoulder, before Kislinger made it 4-2 at 10:04 as he converted a spinning Liberati feed at the left side. Santos had the second assist on Kislinger’s fourth goal, the eventual winner.

Bitten struck at 11:38, breaking in alone on Smith and stuffing the puck around the sprawling goaltender’s left skate.

Amadio scored on the power play at 17:41, beating Nedeljkovic low to the stick side from the right circle. Santos, who posted his second five-point game of the season, and Wood assisted on Amadio’s team-leading 15th goal. Santos had a shorthanded goal and four assists in a 7-3 win Nov. 15 over the visiting Barrie Colts.

With Nedeljkovic gone for a sixth skater, McKenzie connected into the empty net at 19:15. McKenzie, who has scored in each of the last three games, has 10 goals.

The Battalion visits the Sarnia Sting at 7:05 p.m. Friday to open a three-game road trip. The game can be seen live in North Bay on TVCogeco Cable 12 and heard on Country 600 CKAT.

BATTALION BULLETS: The Whalers began play in 1990 as the expansion Detroit Compuware Ambassadors. The club became the Detroit Junior Red Wings in 1992 and the Detroit Whalers in 1995 before adopting the Plymouth name in 1997. The North Bay Centennials defeated the Junior Red Wings in the OHL final in 1994, and the Michigan-based franchise won its only OHL championship in 2007 over the Sudbury Wolves. The Whalers are one of two clubs to win five straight division titles, taking the West Division crown from 1999 through 2003. The Ottawa 67’s won the East Division title from 2006 through 2010 … The Battalion went 6-4-0 in November … The Troops were 1-for-4 on the power play. Flint went 0-for-6 … Lyle drew into the lineup in place of Mark Shoemaker, who received 18 stitches to an arm during a 6-1 road win Friday night over the Niagara IceDogs. Shoemaker was cut by the skate of Niagara’s Josh Ho-Sang but returned to action … The Battalion also scratched Jake Ramalho and Jacob Ball … Flint rearguard Josh Wesley is the son of onetime National Hockey League defenceman Glen Wesley, who played 1,457 games over 20 seasons with the Boston Bruins, Hartford Whalers, Carolina Hurricanes and Toronto Maple Leafs. The younger Wesley was born in Hartford and lives in Raleigh, N.C.

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