Troops survive testy tilt

NORTH BAY, Ont. — One win away from an Ontario Hockey League playoff series victory, the North Bay Battalion heads to the Lift Lock City to face the Peterborough Petes at 7:05 p.m. Sunday.

Kyle McDonald scored two goals to lead North Bay to a 6-2 home-ice verdict Friday night that gave the Battalion a lead of three games to two in the best-of-seven Eastern Conference Championship Series.

The game attracted 4,241, the fourth-largest Memorial Gardens playoff crowd since the Troops moved to the Gateway of the North for the 2013-14 season.

The contest, in which the Petes displayed a growing propensity for chippiness, saw the Battalion lose Pasquale Zito to a check from behind into the boards by Cam Gauvreau and coach Ryan Oulahen replace goaltender Dom DiVincentiis with 1:34 to play.

Gauvreau, a former member of the Battalion whom Peterborough acquired from the Saginaw Spirit, was assessed a major and game misconduct for ramming Zito headfirst into the boards at 5:40 of the middle period. Zito suffered an upper-body injury and is sidelined for the rest of the series.

“It’s tough, obviously,” said Oulahen. “He’s a big part of our team and plays an important role for us.”

The Battalion scored two goals, by McDonald and Ty Nelson, during the five-minute power play.

DiVincentiis was pulled for precautionary reasons, with Charlie Robertson getting his first OHL playoff action in relief.

“There’s some emotion that goes on in the game, and I didn’t want to risk anything at the end, so I thought that was the thing to do,” said Oulahen.

“I give both coaches credit. You saw how the third period played out. It was probably a big message going into that third of discipline. I give their coach a lot of credit for the same thing. So it played out differently, which is nice.

“I just thought it was the right thing to make sure nothing was going to happen at the buzzer.”

Oulahen knew that, mere minutes after Peterborough goaltender Michael Simpson was replaced by Liam Sztuska midway in the second period, Tucker Robertson scored at 14:16 and the Petes followed up by attempting to manhandle DiVincentiis. The visitors’ Connor Lockhart and DiVincentiis received roughing minors.

At the subsequent centre-ice faceoff, Peterborough’s Brennan Othmann and the Troops’ Avery Winslow received misconducts for what might have become a fight but for Othmann retreating.

DiVincentiis registered his 13th OHL playoff win, tying Thomas McCollum for second place on the franchise’s all-time list. Jake Smith holds the record with 27.

Liam Arnsby, whose goal at 9:18 of the first period gave the Battalion a 3-0 lead and proved to be the winner, has three postseason game-winners, tied for sixth place in franchise history with Raffi Torres, Philip Lane, Kamil Kreps and Mike Amadio.

Looking to Game 6, Oulahen said he expects the toughest assignment yet in the series.

“We’re going to see the best of Peterborough Petes for sure on Sunday. We know that. We’ve got to be prepared for that. This is just another win, another step forward, and we’ll try to go to Peterborough and play the best we possibly can.”

Petes coach Rob Wilson appeared to be of a similar mind after the loss.

“It’s a series, and North Bay were very good tonight, and we weren’t. We know we can play a heck of a lot better than that, and they played very well, so you tip your hat to them.”

If a seventh game is necessary, it will be played at North Bay on Monday night.

The game at Peterborough can be seen live in North Bay on YourTV Channels 12 and 700.

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