Battalion blanks Ottawa

NORTH BAY, Ont. — Kyle Jackson scored two goals and added an assist and goaltender Joe Vrbetic made 23 saves for a second straight shutout as the North Bay Battalion downed the Ottawa 67’s 3-0 Thursday night in a battle of the Ontario Hockey League’s Eastern Conference leaders.

Brandon Coe scored the first goal and provided two assists, as the result left both teams with a won-lost-extended record of 10-6-1 for 21 points atop their respective divisions, the Central in the case of North Bay and the East in the case of Ottawa.

Vrbetic, who blanked the visiting Sudbury Wolves in a 4-0 victory Sunday, pushed his shutout streak to 164 minutes, 46 seconds. He last gave up a goal 14 seconds into the second period of a 3-2 loss via shootout Nov. 12 at Sudbury. Goals allowed in shootouts don’t count against a goaltender’s total.

Coe has 28 points, tied with Tucker Robertson of the Peterborough Petes for first among OHL points producers, and a league-leading 21 assists in 17 games.

Goaltender Will Cranley faced 27 shots for Ottawa before a crowd of 1,834. The 67’s had won their previous two games, both on the road.

“It was a real good solid effort again, pretty much all the way through from start to finish,” said Battalion coach Ryan Oulahen, who had praise for Jackson.

“We knew the ability and the pedigree that he had, so it’s no surprise to us what he’s doing. Certainly he’s getting some recognition, and he’s high-end skill, can shoot the puck.”

Coe opened the scoring at 3:29 of the second period, having a cross-crease pass from Jackson deflect off a skate into the net. Paul Christopoulos also assisted on Coe’s seventh goal of the season and first since a 4-2 road win Oct. 23 over the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds.

Liam Arnsby leveled Ranvir Gill-Shane of the 67’s in the Ottawa zone at the four-minute mark before Owen Van Steensel broke away alone against Cranley in the ninth minute only to have the goaltender steer the puck just wide right. Vsevolod Gaidamak tested Vrbetic off the right wing with a backhander in the 11th minute.

Jackson beat Cranley on the power play at 6:31 of the third period on assists by Coe and Ty Nelson before snapping the third Battalion goal from the inner edge of the left circle to the far side off a rush at 14:12. Coe and Matvey Petrov had the assists.

With the Troops’ Nic Sima serving a delay-of-game call, the scoreless first period’s only penalty, Christopoulos charged in alone off the right wing on Cranley but fired high at 7:53.

Coe just failed to cash a goalmouth feed from Avery Winslow deep on the left wing in the 15th minute, and on an ensuing odd-man rush Ottawa’s Steven Laforme fanned on a setup at the left lip of the crease.

Vrbetic, who was named the OHL’s Goaltender of the Week for the period ended Sunday, denied Gill-Shane pinching to the slot in the 18th minute and foiled Anthony Costantini in the closing seconds to keep the game tied despite a late Ottawa push.

The Battalion visits the Oshawa Generals at 7:35 p.m. Friday. The game can be seen live in North Bay on YourTV Channels 12 and 700.

BATTALION BULLETS: On Special Olympics Night, North Bay police chief Scott Tod and Special Olympics athlete Alisha Windsor conducted the ceremonial faceoff. This is the 13th season that the OHL has teamed with The Law Enforcement Torch Run and Special Olympics Ontario … It was the second of six season meetings, two more than in a normal schedule, between the teams, after the 67’s won 2-1 at home Nov. 7 on a shorthanded penalty-shot goal by Dylan Robinson at 19:32 of the third period. They next meet Nov. 27 at Ottawa as the Battalion completes another three-game eastern swing … Coe has a six-game assists streak in which he has earned 11 assists. In 205 career games, Coe has 59 goals and 86 assists for 145 points, two more than Luch Aquino and 20th in franchise history. The Battalion picked Coe, a resident of Ajax, Ont., in the first round, third overall, of the 2017 OHL Priority Selection from the Toronto Nationals minor midgets … The Battalion’s Owen Outwater has been placed on Team Red, one of three Canadian under-17 entries in the Capital City Challenge to be held Nov. 26 to Dec. 1 at Ottawa’s TD Place. The four-team tournament includes Canada’s women’s team … North Bay went 1-for-1 on the power play. Ottawa was 0-for-2 … The Battalion scratched Cam Gauvreau and Anthony Romani … Mike Cairns and Brendan Kane were the referees.

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