Wolves bite Battalion

NORTH BAY, Ont. — Goaltender Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen made 19 saves to record his Ontario Hockey League-leading fifth shutout as the Sudbury Wolves defeated the North Bay Battalion 7-0 Thursday night.

Adam Ruzicka scored one goal and added two assists and Blake Murray and Darian Pilon each had one goal and one assist for Sudbury, which also got goals from Owen Robinson, Jack Thompson, Shane Bulitka and Anthony DeMeo.

Sudbury, which got 23 saves from Luukkonen in a 5-0 blanking of the visiting Battalion on Jan. 16, has a won-lost-extended record of 26-16-3 for 55 points, second in the Central Division.

North Bay is 22-22-3 for 47 points, tied with the Mississauga Steelheads, who hold two games in hand, for third place in the division. Starting goaltender Christian Propp allowed five goals on 30 shots before giving way to Christian Purboo, who surrendered two goals on 15 shots before 2,410 at Memorial Gardens.

“I can’t think of many (games) in my career which have been that lopsided,” said Battalion assistant coach Adam Dennis. “To have a shot count of 20-4 in the first period shows our boys weren’t ready to play, and that’s disappointing, considering the level this game needed to be competed at. It wasn’t there today. When you’re on the bench you feel kind of helpless when you get that kind of an effort. It’s not representative of our club.”

Sudbury jumped to a 3-0 lead in the first period, sparked by Murray ripping home a wrister from the slot at 3:57 for his 19th goal of the season. Pilon struck 1:27 later when he cruised across the zone and fired from the high slot as Propp was screened by Sudbury’s Ryan O’Bonsawin and defender David Maier. Ruzicka then connected off a left-wing rush at 8:47.

The Battalion wasn’t credited with a shot until 9:07, and its best chance came in the 16th minute when Luukkonen denied Matthew Struthers from the lip of the crease.

Propp failed to corral the rebound of an Isaak Phillips shot from close range before Robinson shoveled the puck into the net at 2:55 of the second period, and defenceman Thompson ended the goaltender’s night at 9:56, converting on the power play from deep in the right circle.

North Bay, outshot 12-11, saw Luukkonen handle a Brad Chenier drive off the right wing in the 10th minute and block a Justin Brazeau attempt in the 12th. Cameron Peters missed the net on a breakaway from the blue line in the 14th minute, and Luukkonen made a good stop after Brandon Coe got around Emmett Serensits on the power play in the 18th.

Sudbury added two power-play goals in the final period. Bulitka beat a screened Purboo from the right circle at 4:47, and DeMeo redirected a Drake Pilon feed at 8:07. Defenceman DeMeo has two goals, scored in the last two meetings with the Troops.

There were three fights, the first pitting Coe against Liam Ross late in the second period and the others in the third, when Mason Primeau tangled with O’Bonsawin and Chenier scrapped with Serensits.

The Battalion plays host to the Kingston Frontenacs at 4 p.m. Sunday as part of Cogeco Hockey Day in the OHL.

BATTALION BULLETS: On Canadian Cancer Society Relay For Life Night presented by Epiroc Exploration, a chuck-a-puck contest offered the winner a private box. Other prizes were a $100 Canadian Tire gift card and two game tickets and a Battalion prize package … It was the sixth of eight meetings between the teams, which play next Feb. 13 at Sudbury … The Battalion went 0-for-3 on the power play. Sudbury was 3-for-5 … Opening lines featured Struthers centring left winger Luke Burghardt and right winger Brazeau, Primeau centring left winger Chenier and right winger Coe and Mitchell Russell pivoting left winger Daniel Walker and Harrison Caines on right wing. Luke Moncada centred Peters on left wing and Patrick Brown on right wing … The Battalion was without Travis Mailhot, Simon Rose and Kurtis Evans … Sudbury scratched forwards Owen Gilhula and David Levin, who started serving a three-game suspension following a match penalty for crosschecking Jordan Sambrook of the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds in a 7-4 home-ice loss Sunday … Luukkonen has four wins in as many games against North Bay, with two shutouts, a goals-against average of 1.00 and a .960 save percentage … The Troops have been blanked four times this season … Murray has six goals and two assists for eight points in six games against the Battalion … The referees were Quincy Evans and Mike Hamilton.

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