Bennett paces Fronts past Battalion

KINGSTON, Ont. – Sam Bennett scored three goals and added an assist to power the Kingston Frontenacs to a 6-0 victory Saturday night over the North Bay Battalion, extending the Frontenacs’ Ontario Hockey League winning streak to six games.

Goaltender Lucas Peressini made 26 saves, including one on a penalty shot, for his fifth shutout of the season. Lawson Crouse scored one goal and added two assists, while Ryan Verbeek and Conor McGlynn also scored for Kingston, which got two assists from each of Spencer Watson and Evan McEneny.

The win before 4,020 at the K-Rock Centre lifted Kingston’s won-lost-extended record to 30-26-8 for 68 points, third in the East Division and sixth in the Eastern Conference. The Frontenacs’ last loss was a 4-1 setback Feb. 28 to the host Peterborough Petes.

Bennett has 11 goals and 10 assists for 21 points in nine games since the National Hockey League’s Calgary Flames returned him to Kingston on Feb. 21. The fourth overall pick in the 2014 NHL Draft, he had been sidelined five months while recovering from shoulder surgery.

Goaltender Jake Smith faced 39 shots for North Bay, 33-20-11 for 77 points, second in the Central Division and tied for third in the conference with the Ottawa 67’s, who defeated the host Belleville Bulls 3-2.

Bennett ignited the Kingston offence with two goals 1:15 apart starting at 7:17 of the first period. Smith made a good save on a Watson shot, but Bennett swept the puck home with the goaltender down. Bennett then converted another rebound after Crouse cruised across the slot and challenged Smith with a backhander.

Verbeek scored at 19:34 when his slapper from high on the left wing beat Smith high to the stick side after appearing to glance off defender Riley Bruce.

Bennett made it 4-0 at 16:48 of the second period. Smith stopped Watson’s drive off the right wing, but a defender served the rebound straight to Bennett, who connected from the left side.

The Frontenacs believed they had scored with the man advantage at 18:10. Crouse fired a shot from the right circle that hit Smith and deflected off Watson, at the left post, into the net. Referee Chris Carnegie waved off the play, indicating that Watson directed the puck with his left arm. A video review upheld the ruling.

The Battalion, outshot 17-8, had its best chances in the middle of the period, but Peressini turned away attempts from the right wing by Zach Poirier and Nick Moutrey.

Crouse struck on the power play 59 seconds into the third period for his team-leading 28th goal of the season, burying a crisp Bennett feed from the end boards, and McGlynn cashed his own rebound at 8:49 for his 22nd goal.

Miles Liberati was awarded a penalty shot at 10:52 after being hauled down by Jacob Graves on a shorthanded breakaway, but Peressini foiled Liberati’s attempt to slip the puck between the goaltender’s pads on a backhand deke.

North Bay visits Belleville at 4:05 p.m. Sunday in what, barring a playoff meeting, will be the Battalion’s last game at the Yardmen Arena. The Bulls will be relocated to become the Hamilton Bulldogs next season. The game can be seen live in North Bay on TVCogeco Cable 12 and heard on Country 600 CKAT.

BATTALION BULLETS: Ryan Kujawinski faced his former team for the first time. The Battalion acquired him Jan. 5 with a sixth-round pick in the 2017 OHL Priority Selection for Jared Steege, the rights to Nathan Billitier and a conditional second-rounder in 2016. In 30 games with North Bay, Kujawinski has 16 goals and 15 assists for 31 points. He saw the end of an eight-game points streak during which he had six goals and seven assists for 13 points … In 29 games with Kingston, Steege, who assisted on McGlynn’s goal, has four goals and six assists for 10 points, while Billitier has five assists in 26 games … The Troops were shut out for the second time this season … The Battalion went 0-for-1 on the power play. Kingston was 1-for-4 … Opening line combinations included Nick Paul centring Brett McKenzie on left wing and right winger Moutrey, Mike Amadio pivoting Kujawinski on left wing and right winger Alex Henriksson and Ray Huether centring left winger Zach Bratina and right winger Mathew Santos. Poirier centred left winger Mike Baird and right winger Hampus Olsson … North Bay scratched Austin Kosack, Owen Green and Mark Shoemaker … The Battalion, 2-1-0 against Kingston, hosts the Frontenacs next Sunday, the last day of the schedule. North Bay won 4-1 at Kingston on Nov. 7 and 2-1 in overtime at home Dec. 14 … Pat Myers was the other referee.

The online game sheet can be found here.

The game highlights can be found here.

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