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Jones’s overtime goal thwarts Battalion rally

LONDON, Ont. – Max Jones scored three goals, including the winner 54 seconds into overtime, to power the London Knights to a 4-3 Ontario Hockey League victory Saturday night over the North Bay Battalion.

Mitchell Marner, who grabbed a neutral-zone turnover, took off with Jones on a two-on-one rush against Miles Liberati in the extra session and fed Jones on the left wing for a conversion that blunted a Battalion comeback from a 3-0 third-period deficit.

Christian Dvorak had the other goal and Marner provided three assists for London, which won a fifth consecutive game to move its won-lost-extended record to 8-1-2 for 18 points, third in the Midwest Division. Goaltender Tyler Parsons made 18 saves.

Brett McKenzie scored two goals and Zach Bratina one for the Battalion, 5-5-1 for 11 points, third in the Central Division. Goaltender Jake Smith faced 36 shots, matching a season high reached twice previously.

The Knights, who led 2-0 after 40 minutes, went up by three just 32 seconds into the third period, three seconds after a power play expired. Jones tipped a Marner shot off the crossbar, and the puck landed in the crease where Smith was on his back. Jones jabbed twice at the puck before chipping it into the net.

Battalion coach Stan Butler said both he and Smith believed the goaltender had the puck covered sufficiently for a whistle.

Bratina sparked the Battalion rally with a power-play goal at 5:14, darting down the left wing and sneaking the puck under Parsons’s right arm from the left-wing circle. Mike Amadio and Cam Dineen earned assists on Bratina’s team-leading 12th goal of the season.

The Battalion struck again with the man advantage at 13:47. Penalty killer Marner ragged the puck from the neutral zone, carrying it deep into London territory. He fanned and fell in an attempt to loft the puck down the ice, and McKenzie raced in to rip the rubber past Parsons’s blocker.

McKenzie tied it with his fourth goal at 16:05, burying a Brett Hargrave pass from the end boards.

Jones opened the scoring at 11:22 of the first period, cutting to the net and lifting a backhander over Smith.

Each team recorded seven shots in the fast-paced period. Parsons turned aside two early Mathew Santos chances and denied a Santos drive off the right wing in the 11th minute.

Smith got a shoulder on Kole Sherwood’s shot from the top of the right circle in the eighth minute and was tight to the right post as Cliff Pu drove to the net in the 10th. Smith foiled a Victor Mete drive in the 10th minute with London on the power play and turned away Sam Miletic and Jack Hidi late.

Dvorak scored at 13:57 of the second period on an innocent-looking rush, sweeping deep on the left wing and whipping a wrister high over Smith’s glove from a sharp angle.

The Knights, who enjoyed three power plays in the period, had a 15-6 edge in shots. Smith, who denied Matthew Tkachuk in close early, was under siege over the final five minutes, producing big stops on Miletic, Dvorak, Aaron Berisha and Hidi.

The Troops’ best chance came in the sixth minute when penalty killer Bratina took advantage of a turnover and broke in alone on Parsons. The goaltender also denied a Liberati drive in the third minute and found Kyle Moore’s screened shot off the right wing in the 14th, with Kyle Potts unable to secure the rebound.

The Battalion visits the Mississauga Steelheads at 2 p.m. Sunday. The game can be seen live in North Bay on TVCogeco Cable 12 and heard on Country 600 CKAT.

BATTALION BULLETS: Attendance at Budweiser Gardens was 8,847, the largest crowd for a game involving the Battalion this season … Bratina has a career-high eight-game points streak during which he has scored 12 goals and earned two assists for 14 points … With his assist, Amadio tied Aaron Van Leusen for 18th place on the Battalion’s all-time points list. In 206 games, Amadio has 47 goals and 92 assists for 139 points … The Battalion is 1-2-1 on the road. London is 6-0-2 at home … North Bay went 2-for-2 on the power play. London was 0-for-4 … The Battalion was the last OHL team not to have played into overtime, which now sees teams skating three a side … Opening line combinations included Amadio centring left winger Bratina and right winger Santos, McKenzie centring left winger Max Kislinger and right winger Hargrave and Zach Poirier pivoting left winger Mike Baird and right winger Justin Brazeau. Potts centred Jacob Ball on left wing and right winger Moore … The Battalion scratched Austin Kosack, Kyle Wood, David Sherman and Brady Lyle … Ball, a third-round pick in the OHL Priority Selection in April from the Peterborough Petes minor midgets, sat out five games with concussion-like symptoms from a check from behind into the boards in a 3-1 road win Oct. 10 over the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds.

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