Battalion sets points mark

ST. CATHARINES, Ont. — The North Bay Battalion has reached new regular-season heights.

Justin Ertel, Alexander Lukin and Josh Bloom each had one goal and one assist to lead North Bay to a 5-2 Ontario Hockey League victory Saturday night over the Niagara IceDogs, improving the Battalion’s won-lost-extended record to 47-17-3 for 97 points as Central Division champions, second in the Eastern Conference.

The 97 points are a franchise record, eclipsing the mark of 96, set in 2008-09 when the club was based in Brampton. The 47 wins tie the franchise record, also set in 2008-09. The Troops have one game left on the schedule, against the visiting Mississauga Steelheads at 2 p.m. Sunday.

Owen Van Steensel and Lirim Amidovski, in his first OHL game, also scored, while goaltender Charlie Robertson, who denied Michael Podolioukh on a third-period penalty shot, made 29 saves before an announced crowd of 4,663.

The Battalion won a 10th consecutive game, setting a record for the North Bay era, which dates to 2013. The Troops won nine straight from Jan. 30 to Feb. 20 last season. The franchise record is 16 wins in a row, in 2008-09.

The Battalion, with as many as seven healthy regulars resting in North Bay, dressed Dylan Richter and Amidovski for their OHL debuts. Richter centred Jacob Therrien on left wing and right winger Amidovski.

Kevin He and Zakary Lavoie scored for Niagara, 12-46-9 for 33 points, last in the division and league, while goaltender Owen Flores allowed four goals on 36 shots.

The Battalion, which led 1-0 through 40 minutes, doubled its lead at 1:45 of the final frame when Van Steensel tipped home a Nikita Tarasevich drive. It was Van Steensel’s 10th goal of the season.

Defenceman Lukin one-timed his fifth goal, what proved to be the winner, from the right circle on the power play at 4:10, with Matvey Petrov and Dalyn Wakely assisting, before He got behind the defence and collected his 21st goal at 5:52.

Podolioukh, a former member of the Battalion, was impeded by Brayden Turley on a breakaway at 8:40, precipitating the penalty shot, before Amidovski blocked a shot off a defensive zone faceoff and broke away alone the length of the ice to backhand the puck past Flores at 13:04.

Lavoie scored his 28th goal and 17th since a trade from Mississauga at 18:53 before coincidental minors and the pulling of Flores for an extra attacker had the IceDogs skating five against four when Bloom hit the empty net at 19:50. Ertel and Lukin assisted on Bloom’s 32nd goal, his 25th since a trade from the Saginaw Spirit.

Penalty killer Ertel scored at 1:13 of the second period, taking a Bloom pass on a two-on-one rush and cruising across the net front to deke Flores, depositing the disc on a backhand. Wyatt Kennedy had the other assist on Ertel’s 14th goal.

The Battalion killed a two-man disadvantage lasting 1:10 after Amidovski went off for tripping at 7:45 and Tarasevich followed for delay of game at 8:35.

A first-period flurry saw Flores snag a drive by Luc Brzustowski as the trailer on a rush at 8:04 and Robertson counter with a save against Declan Waddick on the left wing 17 seconds later. Brayden Hislop tested Flores after taking a cross-ice pass and driving toward the net on the left side at 9:09, and Tarasevich redirected a hard pass from Van Steensel high over the net in the 11th minute.

The Battalion faces Mississauga, which with the Sudbury Wolves is a potential first-round playoff opponent, on Fan Appreciation Day.

BATTALION BULLETS: The Battalion went 5-1-0 in the teams’ season series … The Battalion was without Tnias Mathurin, Avery Winslow, Liam Arnsby, Kyle McDonald, Ty Nelson, Kyle Jackson, Pasquale Zito and Dom DiVincentiis … Mike McIvor backed up Robertson … In 128 career games, Petrov has 67 goals and 116 assists for 183 points, one more than Jay McClement and 11th in franchise history. Petrov’s 116 assists are sixth all-time, one up on Luke Lynes, and his 50 power-play assists are tied with Brenden Miller for seventh … Bloom has a six-game points streak in which he has four goals and six assists for 10 points … The Battalion went 1-for-1 on the power play. Niagara was 0-for-4 … Richter, a fifth-round pick in the OHL Priority Selection last April from the Elgin Middlesex Chiefs U16s, had 28 goals and 25 assists for 53 points in 50 regular-season games this season with the junior B Strathroy Rockets of the Greater Ontario Junior Hockey League before adding one goal and four assists for five points in four playoff games. The Parkhill, Ont., resident turns 17 on July 11 … Amidovski, a 2022 ninth-rounder from the Barrie Jr. Colts U16s, has played this season with the Toronto Jr. Canadiens U18s. In 29 regular-season games, he had 28 goals and 12 assists for 40 points. In eight playoff games, he has three goals and four assists for seven points. The Alliston, Ont., resident turned 16 on Dec. 22.

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