Struthers strikes in overtime

NORTH BAY, Ont. — Matthew Struthers scored on the power play at 2:00 of overtime to lift the North Bay Battalion to a 4-3 victory over the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds in an Ontario Hockey League game Thursday night.

Harrison Caines, Mitchell Russell and Brandon Coe also scored for North Bay, which improved its won-lost-extended record to 25-25-4 for 54 points, fourth in the Central Division and seventh in the Eastern Conference, a point ahead of the Peterborough Petes, who lost 4-2 to the visiting Barrie Colts. Goaltender Christian Purboo faced 38 shots before 2,068 at Memorial Gardens.

Keeghan Howdeshell and Barrett Hayton each had one goal and one assist for Sault Ste. Marie, which got its other goal from Mac Hollowell. Starting goaltender Matthew Villalta allowed two goals on 33 shots before being relieved by Ethan Taylor, who surrendered two goals on 11 shots.

Sault Ste. Marie, 35-12-7 for 77 points, sits atop the West Division and is second in the Western Conference.

“Any time you can take points away from a team like that, you know you’ve put a good effort together, and tonight was no different,” Battalion assistant coach Adam Dennis said one night after the Troops lost 5-2 to the host Sudbury Wolves.

“It started yesterday. We came ready from the drop of the puck, and it continued on to today and our guys stuck with it even if they didn’t get the result yesterday. But they put the same work ethic forward tonight and they got rewarded.”

Hollowell was sent off for hooking 36 seconds into overtime, and Brazeau set up the winner when he fanned on a shot from the top of the left-wing circle. The puck slid to Chenier, who whipped it across to Struthers for the conversion at the right post and his 24th goal of the season.

After the teams battled to a 2-2 tie through 40 minutes, the Greyhounds had the best chances early in the third period, with Jaden Peca hammering the puck off the post and Purboo repelling Morgan Frost on a rush off the right wing. Villalta left at 6:38, possibly feeling the effects of a collision with Struthers.

Hayton scored his 22nd goal to give Sault Ste. Marie a 3-2 lead at 13:09, emerging from the left corner and slipping the puck between Purboo’s pads.

Coe tied it at 17:23 with his 13th goal. He rushed to the net off the right wing and looked to toss the puck in front to Chenier, but the disc deflected off Taylor’s stick into the net. Nick King had the only assist.

Howdeshell opened the scoring at 6:32 of the first period with his team-leading 36th goal. Frost dropped a pass to the trailing Howdeshell, who flicked a wrister high over Purboo’s glove from the mid slot. Jordan Sambrook also assisted.

Solid forechecking by Brazeau and Luke Moncada led to North Bay’s first goal at 11:14, as Caines ripped the rubber from the inner edge of the left circle past Villalta’s blocker. Moncada had the lone assist on the sixth goal for Caines, who celebrated his 18th birthday.

Penalty killer Russell scored at 14:04. The Troops cleared the puck down the ice, with Russell racing into the offensive zone as the lone defender back went to the bench and the roaming Villalta abandoned the puck in the corner to his left. Russell seized the disc, wheeled behind the net and jammed the puck inside the left post. The unassisted goal was Russell’s 10th of the season and his fifth since a trade from the Owen Sound Attack.

Defenceman Hollowell tied it on the power play at 7:45 of the second period when his drive from the blue line eluded a screened Purboo.

The Troops, who held a 16-10 edge in shots in the period, thought they’d scored their third goal at 3:17 when Caines poked a loose puck into the net, but referee Ryan Elbers ruled he had blown his whistle as Villalta fumbled with the disc.

The Battalion plays host to the Mississauga Steelheads at 2 p.m. Sunday when several members of Toronto Maple Leafs Alumni will be in attendance to participate in game-day activities. Among those expected are Rick Vaive, Nik Antropov, Dan Daoust, Tom Fergus, Shayne Corson and Steve Thomas.

BATTALION BULLETS: Subway Night featured the Subway Kiss Cam, with two couples winning gift cards. Other gift cards were prizes for an intermission shootout, and Subway T-shirts were shot from a cannon … The Battalion went 2-2-0 against the Greyhounds, the first win coming by a 3-2 score in overtime Oct. 14 at Sault Ste. Marie, also with Purboo in goal … Brazeau has 215 career points, from 115 goals and 100 assists, in 254 games, tying Luke Lynes for sixth place on the franchise scoring list … Russell’s shorthanded goal was the Battalion’s third of the season, the others having come from Chenier and Mason Primeau … King has six assists in the last three games … Ryan Oulahen, a former Battalion captain and assistant coach, attended the game … Each team went 1-for-3 on the power play… Opening lines featured Struthers centring left winger Luke Burghardt and right winger Brazeau, Primeau pivoting left winger Chenier and right winger Coe and Moncada centring left winger Caines and Russell on right wing. Cameron Peters centred Pacey Schlueting, normally a defenceman, on left wing and Patrick Brown on the right side … The Battalion was without Travis Mailhot, Daniel Walker and Kurtis Evans … Frost has a six-game points streak in which he has three goals and eight assists for 11 points … Mike Cairns was the other referee.

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