McDonald nets late winner

NORTH BAY, Ont. — Kyle McDonald’s second goal of the game, at 19:02 of the third period, sent the North Bay Battalion to a 5-3 victory Thursday night over the Windsor Spitfires in a battle of Ontario Hockey League division leaders.

Josh Bloom and Paul Christopoulos, the latter with an empty-netter, each had one goal and one assist and Dalyn Wakely also scored for North Bay, while goaltender Dom DiVincentiis provided 28 saves before a crowd of 2,623.

The Battalion, which improved its won-lost-extended record to 31-11-2 for 64 points atop the Central Division, tied the East Division’s Ottawa 67’s, who hold two games in hand, for first place in the Eastern Conference.

With Charlie Robertson having played in the CHL-NHL Top Prospects Game at Langley, B.C., Wednesday night, Mike McIvor of the North Bay Trappers U18s backed up DiVincentiis. Robertson stopped 11 of 13 shots for Team Red in the second half of a 4-2 loss to Team White.

Windsor, which scratched Shane Wright with what’s believed to be a high ankle sprain, got one goal and one assist from Liam Greentree and its other goals from Alex Christopoulos and Colton Smith. Goaltender Joey Costanzo allowed four goals on 33 shots. The Spitfires, who defeated the Troops 6-3 at home Oct. 27, are 28-11-4 for 60 points, first in the West Division and Western Conference.

Paul Christopoulos and twin brother Alex, who played 78 games over one-plus seasons with North Bay before a trade to Windsor, faced each other in the OHL for the second time, while McDonald skated against his former teammates for the second time since a trade Jan. 5, 2022. Pasquale Zito, acquired from the Niagara IceDogs on Dec. 12, played against his onetime Windsor club twice this season with Niagara.

“They’re a really good hockey team, and I thought we rose to the challenge,” said Battalion coach Ryan Oulahen. “There are certainly things we can clean up, for sure, but I think just overall we rose to the challenge tonight.

“It was fun to watch. It was fun to be a part of and kind of, you know, in Battalion fashion making it pretty interesting at the end. It was fitting, too, for McDonald and Zito to be a part of that goal.”

Greentree got open on the left wing and drilled his 18th goal of the season past DiVincentiis at 5:45 of the third period for a 3-3 tie before McDonald got the winner. Zito pushed the puck behind the net on the left side, and McDonald seized it, backhanding the rubber around the right post from behind the goal line. Matvey Petrov drew the second assist on McDonald’s 19th goal.

DiVincentiis assisted on the empty-netter, which Christopoulos shot from deep in Battalion territory at 19:49.

After the Troops trailed 2-1 through 20 minutes, Bloom tied it at 8:38 of the second period. Christopoulos took an initial shot, and Kyle Jackson fired the puck across the goalmouth to Bloom on the left side for his 22nd goal of the campaign and his 15th since a Nov. 16 trade from the Saginaw Spirit.

McDonald scored at 13:17 after Bloom and Jackson worked the puck back and forth on the end boards, with Jackson ultimately dishing it to McDonald in the right circle for a quick short-side shot.

The Spitfires’ Christopoulos struck first, at 4:27 of the opening period, taking a diagonal pass from Greentree and cashing from the left circle. Jacob Maillet also assisted on Christopoulos’s 27th goal.

Wakely answered 50 seconds later, poking home a loose puck in the crease after an Anthony Romani shot from the slot and a jamming effort by Owen Van Steensel. The goal, Wakely’s 20th, survived two video reviews, for offside on the zone entry and after a baffling challenge by Windsor coach Marc Savard for goaltender interference.

Smith connected at 10:55 off the rebound of a James Jodoin shot, with Matthew Maggio drawing the other assist.

The Battalion opens a two-game weekend road trip with a visit to Niagara at 7 p.m. Saturday. The first of three straight away games can be seen live in North Bay on YourTV Channels 12 and 700.

BATTALION BULLETS: The City of North Bay presented Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Night. Mayor Peter Chirico, Jason Maclennan of North Bay Pride and Seth Compton of OUTLoud North Bay conducted the ceremonial faceoff with the Christopoulos twins … It was Windsor’s first visit since a 3-2 overtime win Jan. 5, 2020. Jean-Luc Foudy scored 1:45 into the extra frame after Battalion penalty killer Mitchell Russell precipitated overtime with a penalty-shot goal at 16:03 of the third period … Nikita Tarasevich played his 100th game, including 80 with North Bay since a Jan. 5, 2022, trade from the Sarnia Sting. He has 14 goals and 29 assists for 43 points with the Troops … Petrov has a six-game points streak in which he has seven goals and five assists for 12 points. In 106 career games, he has 60 goals and 92 assists for 152 points, one more than Kurt MacSweyn and 17th in franchise history … Jackson is on a six-game points streak in which he has one goal and nine assists for 10 points. Jackson, with 65 goals and 83 assists for 148 points in 163 games, is 21st all-time, two points ahead of Chris Rowan … McDonald has a six-game points streak during which he has eight goals and four assists for 12 points … Each team went 0-for-2 on the power play … The Battalion was without skaters Tnias Mathurin, Brayden Turley, Justin Ertel, Liam Arnsby and Luc Brzustowski … Windsor’s Michael Renwick turned 21.

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