NORTH BAY, Ont. – Zach Bratina scored two goals to power the North Bay Battalion to a 5-4 victory over the Sarnia Sting on Friday night, giving the Troops their first win of the Ontario Hockey League season on Centennials Alumni Night.
Brett McKenzie contributed one goal and two assists and Riley Bruce and Zach Poirier also scored for the Battalion, which led 5-1 midway through the third period before Sarnia rallied. Goaltender Jake Smith faced 30 shots before 3,319 at Memorial Gardens.
The Troops lost 4-2 Thursday night to the visiting Kitchener Rangers in a game that marked the Battalion’s third consecutive defeat to start the season. The Troops scored only three goals in those three games.
Brett Hargrave made his Battalion debut after being acquired from the Owen Sound Attack in a trade earlier Friday, while fellow right winger Mathew Santos served the first game of a four-game suspension handed down in light of a major penalty for checking from behind on Kitchener’s Darby Llewellyn.
Nikita Korostelev had one goal and one assist and Alex Black, Patrick White and Anthony Salinitri also scored for the Sting, which defeated the host Barrie Colts 1-0 Thursday night. Goaltender Justin Fazio made 14 saves for Sarnia, which saw its won-lost-extended record drop to 2-2-0.
“We didn’t make it easy on ourselves,” said Battalion coach Stan Butler. “We scored some goals on some sloppy plays by them and we were in good shape but, instead of our guys playing the right way right to the end, we started to cheat a bit and be lazy. As a result we almost allowed them to come back and win.”
McKenzie gave the Troops their first lead of the season at 13:40 of the first period. McKenzie gathered the puck in the neutral zone and, with defender Kevin Spinozzi in tow, fired a wrister that went off Fazio’s right arm into the net. The unassisted goal was McKenzie’s second of the season.
Korostelev replied on the power play at 14:30. Smith stopped Alexandre Renaud’s shot, but the rebound fell to Korostelev, who steered it into the net.
Defenceman Bruce scored his first regular-season OHL goal at 6:13 of the second period. Seconds after Fazio made a fine save on Max Kislinger, Bruce beat the screened goaltender with a shot from the blue line. The goal was assisted by McKenzie and Kislinger, who earned his first OHL point.
Smith had a busy period, facing 10 shots. He stopped Hayden Hodgson’s drive from the slot and a backhander by Brandon Lindberg in the fifth minute. Smith made two saves on Black, alone at the lip of the crease, and got the blocker on Zachary Core’s shot from the right point in the eighth minute before denying Jakob Chychrun from the slot in the 13th.
Fazio made seven saves. He stopped an Austin Kosack drive in the fifth minute and sprawled to deny Mike Amadio’s attempt at the rebound and got in front of a close-in Bratina chance in the 15th.
Bratina struck shorthanded at 1:17 of the third period, finishing off a two-on-one rush with Amadio by beating Fazio from the left-wing circle. Zach Shankar earned the second assist.
Poirier made it 4-1 at 4:46. Fazio stopped McKenzie’s initial shot, but the puck dropped into the crease, where Poirier poked it home for his second goal. The other assist went to Mike Baird.
The Troops capitalized on the power play after Smith fed Bratina up the left boards at the Sarnia blue line during a bad change. Bratina broke in alone and scored on a deke to the forehand at 7:41.
The Sarnia comeback started at 12:03 when defenceman Black shoveled home a loose puck from the deep slot, and White brought the visitors within two at 17:01, banging home a Sasha Chmelevski pass.
Fazio went to the bench for an extra skater with 2:15 left to play and, seconds after Bratina missed the vacant net, Salinitri converted from the deep slot at 18:28.
The Sting threatened in the final minute with Fazio back on the bench, but Chychrun missed the net from the slot and couldn’t beat Smith on a wraparound attempt at the right post.
The Battalion visits the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds at 7:07 p.m. next Saturday, Oct. 10. The game can be heard live on Country 600 CKAT.
BATTALION BULLETS: Smith posted his 61st career win, tying Brad Topping for third place on the franchise list … The Battalion played regular-season home games on consecutive nights for the first time since four such instances during the inaugural 1998-99 season in Brampton. The Troops also play at home Dec. 17-18 this year, against the Mississauga Steelheads and Niagara IceDogs respectively … The Battalion went 1-for-3 on the power play. Sarnia was 1-for-4 … Opening line combinations featured Amadio centring left winger Bratina and Hargrave, McKenzie pivoting left winger Baird and Poirier on right wing and Kyle Potts centring Kislinger on left wing and right winger Calvin Gomes. Jacob Ball centred left winger Owen Green and right winger Justin Brazeau … The Battalion scratched Kyle Wood, Jake Ramalho, David Sherman, Brady Lyle, Kyle Moore and Santos, who’s eligible to return Oct. 16 when the Troops visit the Sudbury Wolves … Overage Battalion defenceman Kosack made his season debut … Sarnia centre Pavel Zacha, a Czech import who was a first-round pick, sixth overall, by the New Jersey Devils in the National Hockey League Draft last June, remains with the club with the NHL season set to start next Wednesday night … The referees were Ryan Park and Ben Wilson.
The online game sheet can be found here.
The game highlights can be found here.