Kingston takes series lead

SUDBURY, Ont. – Jason Robertson and Gabriel Vilardi each scored two goals and assisted on another to power the Kingston Frontenacs to a 4-1 Ontario Hockey League victory Tuesday night over the North Bay Battalion and a lead of two games to one in their best-of-seven Eastern Conference quarterfinal.

Goaltender Jeremy Helvig made 31 saves in front of 1,145 fans at the Sudbury Community Arena, the Battalion’s home for the game as Memorial Gardens is reconfigured to hockey after the World Women’s Curling Championship ended Sunday.

Jake Henderson scored for North Bay, while goaltender Christian Propp faced 31 shots as the Troops suffered a second straight loss.

The Battalion plays host to the fourth game at North Bay at 7 p.m. Thursday.

The Troops, who trailed 3-0 after 40 minutes, saw Henderson score 58 seconds into the third period when he split two defenders and drove to the left edge of the crease to backhand the puck past Helvig. Adam McMaster and Jesse Saban assisted on Henderson’s second goal of the series.

Robertson replied at 3:43, converting the rebound after Sean Day went behind the net and tried to beat Propp from the right post.

Kingston’s Liam Murray was assessed a double minor for crosschecking at 4:58 after hitting Brandon Coe from behind into the boards, but the Battalion failed to mount a serious threat during the extended power play.

After a penalty-free first period, Robertson and and Vilardi capitalized on both parts of a two-man advantage early in the second frame after Luke Burghardt and Saban went off in quick succession for crosschecking and slashing respectively, giving Kingston a scheduled 1:08 of skating five-on-three.

Robertson got loose below the right-wing circle to convert a pass from Vilardi at 1:53 before Vilardi backhanded the puck home from the slot at 3:04 with assists to Robertson and Cliff Pu.

Vilardi struck again unassisted at 19:19, intercepting a clearing attempt and advancing into the left circle to beat Propp with a snap shot to the glove side.

A fast-paced first period saw the Battalion outshoot Kingston 14-11 after the Frontenacs had four of the first five shots. The Troops’ Riley Bruce delivered a big check in the fifth minute, and Mitchell Byrne responded in kind as the game threatened to get rough early.

Propp snagged a screened right-point drive by Eemeli Rasanen at 8:45 and produced two leg saves while down in a scramble in the 10th minute. Propp’s biggest stop was a glove robbery of Vilardi, open on the right side on a three-on-one rush, at 12:46.

Daniel Walker backhanded a shot at Helvig from deep on the right wing in the 11th minute, and the goaltender took a seated position with no idea where the puck was before it reappeared behind the net. Helvig made a solid save on Adam Thilander’s left-point blast through traffic at 16:58.

BATTALION BULLETS: It was the first neutral-site game in either the regular season or playoffs in the Battalion’s 20-year history, including 15 seasons in Brampton … The Battalion goal and shots were displayed under “Sudbury” on the scoreboard … Bryan Floyd, the Battalion’s public address announcer, manned the microphone, while the Sudbury Wolves’ off-ice officials staffed the game. Mascot Sarge took to the ice before the game and in the first intermission … The Battalion Booster Club had two buses of fans at the game … Propp marked his 19th birthday Tuesday … The Battalion went 0-for-3 on the power play. Kingston was 2-for-3 … Opening lines featured Matthew Struthers centring left winger Burghardt and right winger Justin Brazeau, Kyle Potts centring left winger McMaster and right winger Henderson and Luke Moncada skating between left winger Brad Chenier and right winger Coe. Patrick Brown centred left winger Walker and right winger Andy Baker … The Battalion scratched Simon Rose, Rhys Forhan and Kurtis Evans … Walker returned to action after suffering a hand injury Feb. 25 in a 4-1 loss to the host Hamilton Bulldogs … The National Hockey League’s Carolina Hurricanes announced Tuesday that Helvig has signed a three-year entry-level contract with the club. He was a fifth-round pick in the 2016 NHL Draft … The referees were Mike Hamilton and Pat Myers.

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