NORTH BAY, Ont. — The North Bay Battalion, which faced the Ontario Hockey League’s top team in its most recent outing, plays host to what might be seen as the Troops’ Western Conference equivalent at 7 p.m. Thursday.
The Sarnia Sting invades Memorial Gardens with a won-lost-extended record of 17-29-6 for 40 points, fifth in the West Division and last in the conference. North Bay, 11-38-2 for 24 points, is fifth in the Central Division and last in the Eastern Conference and league.
The Battalion, on a seven-game losing streak, completed a three-game road trip with a 9-1 loss Sunday to the Ottawa 67’s in which the winners built 5-0 and 9-0 period leads before Brandon Coe replied 58 seconds into the final frame.
“We’ve talked a lot about effort lately, and that’s the biggest thing,” interim coach Ryan Oulahen of the Battalion said Wednesday.
“We can control our compete level and our effort level. That’s got to be the biggest thing that we can control here. We owe it to ourselves; we owe it to everybody.”
Oulahen said that, even with playoff prospects declining, the Troops have plenty to play for in the final quarter of the schedule, including roster spots next season and usage.
“We’ve tried lineup changes. We’ve tried giving ice time to different players in different areas.”
While the Battalion’s losses — the team’s last win was a 4-2 decision Jan. 24 over the host Sudbury Wolves — have mounted, Oulahen said development remains paramount.
“It’s going to take time, but we want the process to start looking better sooner rather than later.”
Luke Moncada, who assumed the captaincy when Brad Chenier was traded to Sudbury on Jan. 9, said he wants the Troops to show their best effort down the stretch.
“I’ve been preaching that we’ve got to compete a little bit harder, we’ve got to be more desperate and we’ve got to have more urgency,” said Moncada.
Eleven of the 17 games left are at home, where the Battalion is 7-14-2. Six road games remain, with the Troops having gone 4-24-0 in away dates.
North Bay visits the Barrie Colts on Saturday night and entertains the Mississauga Steelheads on Sunday in the first of four consecutive home games.
There are three former members of the Sting, 1-8-2 in its last 11 games, on the Battalion roster, in defencemen Braden Henderson and Nick Grima and goaltender Cameron Lamour.
Sarnia, without any former Troops, carries rookie Benjamin Gaudreau of Corbeil as one of its two goaltenders. Gaudreau, taken seventh overall in the OHL Priority Selection last April from the North Bay Trappers midgets, has played in 19 games, posting a 6-9-2 record with a 4.37 goals-against average and an .890 save percentage.
Ethan Langevin is the No. 1 goaltender, with a 4.72 GAA, an .875 save percentage and an 8-17-4 record in 32 games.
Sean Josling leads Sarnia scorers with 31 goals and a team-high 39 assists for 70 points in 52 games, and fellow right winger Jacob Perreault has 31 goals, tied with Josling for the top total on the team, and 27 assists for 58 points in 47 games. Centre Ryan McGregor has 20 goals and 36 assists for 56 points in 42 games.
Centre Moncada and right winger Coe pace Battalion points production. Moncada has scored a team-leading 28 goals and added 20 assists for 48 points in 51 games, while Coe has 18 goals and a team-high 30 assists for 48 points in 49 games. Right winger Mitchell Russell has generated 18 goals and 17 assists for 35 points in 47 games, and Grima has three goals and 21 assists for 24 points in 43 games.
The Sarnia game marks The Gathering Place Night.
Fans, who are encouraged to bring non-perishable food items to donate, will have the chance to win a prize, compliments of The Gathering Place and its community supporters. There also will be a ‘Kiss Cam’ on the eve of Valentine’s Day.
The Gathering Place is a non-governmental, donation-dependent agency that serves more than 1,100 meals a week from its location on Cassells Street.