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Troops secure first win

NORTH BAY, Ont. — Brad Chenier scored two power-play goals, the second in overtime, to lift the North Bay Battalion to a 3-2 victory Thursday night over the Kitchener Rangers, giving the Troops their first win of the Ontario Hockey League season.

Harrison Caines also scored for North Bay, while goaltender Joe Vrbetic made 29 saves for his first OHL win, which came after the Battalion lost its first two games of the schedule.

Jonathan Yantsis scored one goal and added an assist for Kitchener. Francesco Pinelli provided the other goal, and goaltender Jacob Ingham faced 31 shots as the Rangers, in their road debut, suffered their first loss in two games of the young season.

Ville Ottavainen received a double minor for high-sticking Matthew Struthers eight seconds into overtime, giving the Battalion a four-on-three skating advantage. Chenier redirected a Brandon Coe pass home from the left side at 1:35, with Nick King drawing the other assist, his second, before a crowd of 1,922.

Captain Chenier has two goals and one assist for three points in as many games, while Struthers made his season debut after recovering from an upper-body injury that saw him fail a medical at the rookie camp of the National Hockey League’s Montreal Canadiens. He’s the highest-scoring Battalion holdover from last season, when he recorded 31 goals and 50 assists for 81 points in 61 games.

The teams battled through a scoreless third period, with Chenier prompting Kitchener coach Jay McKee to call a timeout at 4:40 after a shoveled backhander at the right post just missed breaking the tie.

Caines tested Ingham on a good chance from the right wing in the sixth minute, and Vrbetic denied Declan McDonnell alone in the goalmouth off an odd-man attack at the eight-minute mark.

Each team failed to score on its lone power play of the period, but Chenier had a late opportunity in front, jamming the puck under the fallen Ingham.

Chenier gave the Troops a 2-0 lead at 10:10 of the second period, taking advantage of an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty to Arber Xhekaj called amid a spate of hostility. Paul Christopoulos, with his first OHL point, and King had the assists as Chenier put the puck into the far side of the net from the right circle.

Kitchener tied it with two power-play goals, the first by Pinelli at 13:03 as Luke Moncada served a double minor for spearing. Rookie Pinelli backhanded home his own rebound from traffic in front of Vrbetic.

Yantsis struck at 19:00 with Coe in the box after a weak tripping call. Yantsis deflected a right-point drive by Donovan Sebrango, with Liam Hawel drawing the second assist.

Caines opened the scoring at 14:17 of the first period after a slick setup by Mitchell Russell, who cruised to the mid slot before feeding Caines deep on the left wing. He put the puck into the short side as Ingham was preoccupied with bodies in front.

Vrbetic denied Mike Petizian breaking in on the right wing in the 11th minute and reached up to catch a tipped centring attempt by Graham Dickerson to Joseph Serpa on a rush at 12:08. Vrbetic foiled Ryan Stepien on a two-on-one sortie in the 17th minute.

Soon after that, Christopoulos stole the puck at the Battalion blue line and raced in alone on Ingham only to fire wide right.

The Battalion visits the Sudbury Wolves at 7:05 p.m. Friday. The game can be heard live on Country 600 CKAT.

BATTALION BULLETS: The attendance was the lowest ever for a Battalion home game at North Bay. The previous low was 2,017 for a 5-4 overtime win over the Flint Firebirds last Feb. 7 … Fans received magnetic schedules from YourTV representatives on the way out of the arena … The Battalion has an all-time won-lost-tied record against Kitchener of 19-36-4, including five losses beyond regulation time. The Troops have posted just three winning seasons against the Rangers, in 2000-01, 2002-03 and 2013-14. The last followed relocation to North Bay from Brampton … Opening lines featured Struthers centring left winger Chenier and right winger Coe, Mason Primeau pivoting left winger Caines and right winger Russell and Moncada centring Cameron Peters on left wing and Liam Arnsby on right wing. Josh Currie centred left winger Kyle Jackson and right winger Alex Christopoulos … The Battalion scratched Ryan Thompson, Niki Korpialho, David Campbell and Patrick Brown … Battalion assistant coach Adam Dennis missed the game because of illness … Each team went 2-for-4 on the power play … Among the missing for Kitchener were Simon Motew and Greg Meireles … The Rangers acquired overage centre Hawel from the Guelph Storm on Sept. 17 for four OHL Priority Selection picks, including two second-rounders and all of them conditional … The referees were Quincy Evans and Dave Lewis.

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