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Wolves blank Battalion

SUDBURY, Ont. — Blake Murray scored two goals and goaltender Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen made 23 saves for the shutout as the Sudbury Wolves defeated the North Bay Battalion 5-0 in the only Ontario Hockey League game Wednesday night.

Blake McConville, David Levin and Anthony DeMeo also scored for Sudbury, which moved its won-lost-extended record to 25-14-3 for 53 points, second in the Central Division. Luukkonen posted his league-leading fourth shutout of the season as the Wolves won a fourth straight game, their last loss a 2-0 decision Jan. 6 to the host Saginaw Spirit.

Starting goaltender Christian Propp allowed four goals on 16 shots for North Bay before being relieved by Christian Purboo, who gave up one goal on 33 shots. The Battalion is 21-20-3 for 45 points, third in the division.

The game, before a crowd of 2,369, featured two goaltenders on 10-game winning streaks. Luukkonen, who leads the OHL with a 2.34 goals-against average, now has won 11 straight decisions since a 7-4 road loss Nov. 21 to the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, while Propp hadn’t lost since a 5-1 setback Dec. 9 to the host Hamilton Bulldogs.

Sudbury built a 4-0 first-period lead, sparked by two shorthanded goals 47 seconds apart in the third minute with DeMeo serving a slashing penalty. McConville struck at 2:01, rushing to the slot and converting a feed from Nolan Hutcheson, who muscled David Maier off the puck in the corner to Propp’s right. Murray then doubled the lead by finishing off a two-on-one rush with Owen Robinson.

Levin connected on the power play at 9:57 for his 18th goal of the season, stepping around Brad Chenier at the top of the right-wing circle and ripping a wrister past Propp’s blocker.

Heavy pressure in the Battalion zone in the 16th minute forced Propp to scramble to deny Drake Pilon twice at the lip of the crease, and the goaltender managed to fall on the puck after Robinson hit the post from the goalmouth. Murray, with his 17th goal, ended Propp’s night at 16:32, scoring on a low shot from close range after fanning on an initial drive.

The Troops, who were outshot 18-4 in the period, failed to test Luukkonen, who earned his first OHL point with an assist on Levin’s goal.

Defenceman DeMeo, acquired Jan. 7 from Sault Ste. Marie, scored his first goal of the campaign at 1:59 of the second period, dashing unimpeded into the offensive zone and beating Purboo high to the stick side.

Daniel Walker, called for slashing on Luukkonen, scrapped with Macauley Carson at 8:16. Both received fighting majors, while Carson drew an instigating minor and misconduct.

The Battalion produced several chances in the frame. Luukkonen denied Chenier from the lip of the crease in the third minute and stopped a late Walker drive. The goaltender battled traffic to make two stops on Nick King with the Troops on the power play in the last minute.

Sudbury’s Ryan O’Bonsawin missed the net on a breakaway in the 17th minute.

The third period saw Sudbury forge a 14-9 edge in shots. Luukkonen made good stops on Chenier, Luke Moncada and Mitchell Russell, while Walker hammered the puck off the right post. Luukkonen preserved the shutout with a sterling stop on Matthew Struthers in alone at 15:44.

North Bay plays host to Sault Ste. Marie at 7 p.m. Thursday on Bell Let’s Talk Night.

BATTALION BULLETS: The Battalion has 24 games left to play, 16 of them at home … King saw the end of a career-high seven-game points streak in which he had four goals and seven assists for 11 points … The Battalion was shut out for the third time this season … The Troops last allowed two shorthanded goals in a game on Oct. 14, 2017, in a 5-3 road loss to the Barrie Colts … North Bay was 0-for-3 on the power play. Sudbury went 1-for-3 … Defenceman Zack Malik, acquired from Sudbury via trade Jan. 8, faced his former teammates for the first time … The Battalion, which dressed 19, one below the limit, was without Travis Mailhot, Simon Rose, Kurtis Evans and Cameron Peters … Walker returned from a two-game suspension assessed after he received a crosschecking minor and a misconduct and game misconduct for abuse of an official in a 4-3 overtime win last Thursday night over the visiting Mississauga Steelheads … Left winger Kyle Jackson, who played three games last week, scoring his first two OHL goals in a 7-2 Battalion road win Saturday night over the Peterborough Petes, rejoined the junior A Ottawa Senators after a 2-1 loss Sunday night to the host Kingston Frontenacs … Hutcheson has three goals and five assists for eight points in five games against the Battalion, while Murray has five goals and one assist for six points in five games … Ben Moser and Pat Myers were the referees.

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