Troops can see end of the road

NORTH BAY, Ont. — The North Bay Battalion wraps up a string of six consecutive Ontario Hockey League road games at 7:30 p.m. Friday against the Guelph Storm before playing host to the Niagara IceDogs on Sunday.

“It’s two hockey teams that are basically in very similar situations,” Battalion coach Stan Butler said Wednesday of North Bay and Guelph, who are off to slow starts.

The Battalion has a won-lost-extended record of 6-10-2 for 14 points, fifth in the Central Division, while the Storm is fourth in the Midwest Division at 8-7-2 for 18 points.

Butler said he was pleased with the performance of the Troops in two of three games last weekend, namely a 5-1 victory Friday night over the Flint Firebirds and a 3-1 loss Sunday to the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds. The Battalion didn’t show as well in a 6-1 loss Saturday night to the Saginaw Spirit.

North Bay has gone 1-4-0 in the current road stretch.

“In fairness to this group, I don’t think you can evaluate it until Christian Propp is back,” Butler said of the goaltender acquired Oct. 22 from the Owen Sound Attack, who left his Battalion debut Oct. 26, an eventual 4-0 win over the visiting Windsor Spitfires, with a lower-body injury at 5:31 of the first period.

Luke Burghardt and Luke Moncada, who joined the Battalion in a June 27 trade with Guelph, figure to face their former teammates for the first time. Burghardt, a centre and left winger, is third in team scoring with seven goals and eight assists for 15 points in 18 games, while left winger Moncada has three goals and four assists for seven points in 18 games.

Defenceman Mark Shoemaker, one of two players who went the other way in the trade, likely will play against the Troops, but centre and right winger Zach Poirier is serving a suspension.

Storm scoring is led by two defencemen, with Ryan Merkley having five goals and 13 assists for 18 points and Garrett McFadden five goals and eight assists for 13 points. Right winger Alexey Toropchenko has scored four goals and added nine assists for 13 points, and rookie centre Cam Hillis has four goals and eight assists for 12 points. All have played 17 games.

Right winger Justin Brazeau paces the Battalion attack with 12 goals and nine assists for 21 points, while defenceman Cam Dineen has six goals and 11 assists for 17 points. Both have played 18 games.

“He’s made great strides,” Butler said of Brazeau, a New Liskeard, Ont., native who was a 13th-round pick in the 2014 OHL Priority Selection from the New Liskeard Cubs midgets.

“Obviously, from where he was picked, he’s a huge success story. You’ve got to give him credit. He’s a guy who works extremely hard and puts the work in.”

Brazeau, six-foot-five and 221 pounds, had six goals and seven assists for 13 points in 65 games as an OHL rookie in 2015-16 before scoring 22 goals and earning 15 assists for 37 points in 67 games last season.

The game at Guelph can be seen live on YourTV Channels 12 and 700 and heard on Country 600 CKAT.

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