Wolves edge Troops

NORTH BAY, Ont. — Kalle Loponen’s power-play goal at 16:11 of the third period lifted the Sudbury Wolves to a 3-2 victory Friday night over the North Bay Battalion.

David Levin scored one goal and added two assists and Owen Robinson also scored for Sudbury, which improved its won-lost-extended record to 10-7-0 for 20 points atop the Ontario Hockey League’s Central Division. Goaltender Christian Purboo, a former member of the Battalion, faced 30 shots.

Matthew Struthers and Luke Moncada scored a goal apiece and goaltender Joe Vrbetic made 25 saves for North Bay, which lost a sixth consecutive game and is 3-12-0 for six points, fifth in the division.

The Troops, who played their previous five games on the road, were at home for the first time since a 7-5 victory Oct. 14 over the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds and were cheered by a Memorial Gardens crowd of 2,416.

With assistant coach Adam Dennis scouting this weekend, skills coach Ryan Oulahen joined coach Stan Butler and assistant Scott Wray behind the Battalion bench.

“We were good in the first two periods,” said Butler. “We had power-play opportunities that we didn’t take advantage of. In the third period we had a couple of bad mistakes. The second goal was a bad missed coverage in our own zone, and on the third goal a guy jumps off our bench while we’re killing a penalty, and you just can’t make those types of mistakes.”

The Battalion had just killed the first penalty of a two-man disadvantage when Loponen netted the winner, hammering the puck from the high slot past the glove of the screened Vrbetic. Blake Murray and Levin each earned his second assist of the game.

The Battalion’s hopes of finding a game-tying goal took a setback when Brandon Coe was handed a match penalty for a purported slew-foot on Liam Ross at 18:35. Vrbetic went to the bench for a fifth skater with 53 seconds left to play, and Nick Grima had a strong scoring chance from the deep slot in the final seconds.

North Bay held an edge in play in the first period, outshooting Sudbury 11-7, but the visitors left the frame with a 1-0 lead after Robinson converted a Murray pass alone at the goalmouth at 19:57.

The Battalion, which enjoyed the period’s only two power plays, had several good chances, with Struthers, Moncada, Mitchell Russell, Cameron Peters, Mason Primeau, Josh Currie and Harrison Caines testing Purboo.

Struthers tied it at 7:04 of the second period. The Battalion received a two-man advantage scheduled for 55 seconds, and Struthers drove to the net off the right wing to flick the puck past Purboo’s blocker for a team-leading ninth goal on the season. Vrbetic earned his first OHL point with the lone assist.

Moncada put the Troops ahead at 16:42, beating Purboo to the stick side from the left-wing circle. Simon Rose had the only assist on Moncada’s eighth goal.

The Battalion forged a 15-8 edge in shots in the frame. Purboo faced tough chances from Peters, Moncada, Struthers and Paul Christopoulos. Struthers and Brad Chenier each drilled the puck off the left post. Sudbury’s best chance came in the 16th minute when Vrbetic stared down Nolan Hutcheson on a breakaway.

Levin knotted it 2-2 at 3:46 of the third period as he slid home a cross-crease feed from Murray from deep in the left circle.

The Battalion plays host to the Peterborough Petes at 2 p.m. Sunday on Military Appreciation Day.

The Troops will wear camouflage-themed sweaters and socks in their last home game until after Remembrance Day. The ceremonial faceoff will feature military personnel, including veteran Dave Innes, a medalist at the most recent Invictus Games, and more than 200 fans from the Military Family Resource Centre will be in attendance.

BATTALION BULLETS: The game featured Redpath Shift Change, sponsored by Redpath Mining Contractors and Engineers, which contributed $2,500 to the 50-50 draw in support of KidSport North Bay, boosting the payout by $1,250 and helping create a prize of $7,902. Redpath distributed flashing safety lights, and draws saw fans win prizes. The company had miners in attendance to talk to fans … The game was the second of eight meetings, after the Wolves won 11-3 at home Sept. 27. The teams next meet Dec. 31 at North Bay in the annual New Year’s Eve matinee … Moncada has a four-game points streak in which he has three goals and two assists for five points … Defenceman Pacey Schlueting has been named the Central Division academic player for October. He has an 84-percent average in Grade 12 chemistry, philosophy and functions courses at Chippewa Secondary School. Schlueting also received the honour last February. He was the Battalion’s first-round pick in the 2018 OHL Priority Selection from the North Bay Trappers minor midgets … The Battalion was without Schlueting and Liam Arnsby, who’s with Canada White in the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge at the Western Hockey League centres of Swift Current and Medicine Hat … North Bay went 1-for-5 on the power play. Sudbury was 1-for-3 … Murray has two goals and five assists for seven points in the last five games.

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