Troops skin Wolves 4-0

NORTH BAY, Ont. — Rookie Ty Nelson scored two goals and goaltender Joe Vrbetic made 14 saves for the shutout as the North Bay Battalion dominated the Sudbury Wolves 4-0 Sunday to gain a split of their Ontario Hockey League home-and-home series.

Kyle Jackson scored one goal and added an assist and Matvey Petrov provided the other North Bay goal, while Brandon Coe had three assists and Mitchell Russell two.

Vrbetic recorded his third career shutout, the others having come in 2019-20, as the Battalion improved its won-lost-extended record to 9-6-1 for 19 points, first in the Central Division.

A season-high Memorial Gardens crowd of 2,369 saw the Battalion’s first home game since a 3-2 loss Oct. 28 to the Oshawa Generals. It followed six consecutive road games during which the Troops went 3-2-1, including a 3-2 loss via shootout Friday night at Sudbury.

Goaltender Mitchell Weeks faced 41 shots for the Wolves, 6-9-1 for 13 points, fourth in the division.

“We got off to a good start,” noted Battalion coach Ryan Oulahen. “We’ve had a tendency to kind of let up in the second (period) and come back in the third. I thought today we were consistent all the way through, everybody. From the net out, we were real solid today.”

Oulahen said the Troops were glad to be back home after the season-high run of road dates.

“It looked like today we were really excited to play in front of our fans, and I thought that was a really good thing to see today.”

The Battalion, which led 1-0 after 20 minutes on Petrov’s goal, doubled its lead on the power play at 8:45 of the middle period as Jackson converted his own rebound after a pass to the goalmouth from Coe. Russell had the second assist on Jackson’s eighth goal of the season.

Sudbury sank into chippiness in the second half of the period, with Quentin Musty fighting the Battalion’s Alexander Lukin at 16:28. Lukin landed the majority of blows and earned the takedown in defending himself, presumably in light of a clean check in the previous meeting that saw Kosta Manikis leave the game on a gurney.

Dylan Robinson then jumped North Bay rookie Nic Sima at 17:09, drawing an instigating minor, fighting major and misconduct as Sima went without penalty. That put the Troops on the power play for seven minutes and helped them to an 11-7 advantage in shots in the frame.

Defenceman Nelson capitalized for a pair of man-advantage goals, the first 47 seconds into the third period on assists from Coe and Russell as Nelson threaded the puck through traffic from the blue line, and the second at 2:19, when he intercepted a clearing attempt and scored unassisted.

The Battalion emerged from the gate strong, forging a 15-4 edge in first-period shots and scoring the only goal when Petrov took a short back pass at the blue line from Jackson and slipped toward the middle to beat Weeks low to the stick side at 9:58. Coe had the other assist on Russian import Petrov’s team-leading 12th goal.

The Battalion plays host to the Ottawa 67’s at 7 p.m. Thursday on Special Olympics Night.

BATTALION BULLETS: The Highway 17 rivals, who normally meet eight times a season, have played four of the 12 games scheduled between them in the current campaign, the format of which was altered by concerns around the coronavirus pandemic. The host Battalion prevailed 3-2 on Oct. 11, and Sudbury won 3-1 at home Oct. 31 before the decision via shootout Friday night. They next face off Jan. 20 at North Bay … The Battalion is 5-2-0 at home, while Sudbury is 1-8-1 on the road … Nelson, the first overall pick in the 2020 OHL Priority Selection from the Toronto Jr. Canadiens minor midgets, has four goals and 11 assists for 15 points in 16 games … In 204 career games, overager Coe has 58 goals and 84 assists for 142 points, two more than Nick Paul and 21st in franchise history. The Battalion picked Coe, a resident of Ajax, Ont., in the first round, third overall, of the 2017 Priority Selection from the Toronto Nationals minor midgets … North Bay was 3-for-7 on the power play. Sudbury went 0-for-4 … The Battalion scratched Michael Podolioukh and Owen Outwater as each team dressed 11 forwards and seven defencemen … Apart from Manikis, Michael Derbidge and Andre Anania were out of the lineup for Sudbury … The Wolves’ Kocha Delic had scored one goal in each of the previous three games … Stephen Hiff and Aaron Neely were the referees.

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