First-place Frontenacs survive Battalion rally

NORTH BAY, Ont. – Spencer Watson’s empty-net goal at 18:28 of the third period proved the winner as the Kingston Frontenacs survived a late North Bay Battalion rally for a 4-3 Ontario Hockey League victory Thursday night.

Ryan Verbeek, Juho Lammikko and Jared Steege also scored for Kingston, which moved its won-lost-extended record to 13-6-2 for 28 points atop the East Division and Eastern Conference. Goaltender Lucas Peressini made 19 saves.

Cam Dineen, David Sherman and Mike Amadio scored for the Battalion, which netted two goals 42 seconds apart in the final two minutes. Goaltender Jake Kment, making an eighth straight start, faced 28 shots for North Bay, 9-9-2 for 20 points, fourth in the Central Division.

Defenceman Kyle Wood saw his first action of the season with the Troops, who faced the Frontenacs for the second time, the first a fight-filled 4-1 road loss Nov. 6.

Battalion coach Stan Butler said the game before a crowd of 3,276 was a “good measuring stick.”

“Kingston’s the best team on our side. The reason is they have a really strong compete level, which you need to have to do well in the playoffs. There were a lot of times tonight that showed we still have a lot of work ahead of us and, when they forced us to battle for a full 60 minutes, we weren’t up to the task. We got a little bit lazy, and when we did battle hard we were pretty good.”

The Frontenacs carried a 2-1 lead into the third period, and Steege made it 3-1 at 5:46, firing a wrister past Kment’s blocker after Warren Foegele tied up Zach Poirier in the right-wing faceoff circle.

Kingston ran into penalty trouble, playing shorthanded for 6:36 after Conor McGlynn was issued a major penalty, for a head check on Daniil Vertiy, and a game misconduct at 10:21 and Roland McKeown collected a crosschecking call at 14:57.

The Troops failed to take advantage, with their best chances coming in the 11th minute when Peressini stopped Mark Shoemaker’s shot from the right point and in the 15th when the goaltender blocked a Dineen drive from inside the blue line. Miles Liberati missed the net on a right-wing rush as McKeown’s penalty expired.

Watson scored his team-leading 13th goal of the season with Kment on the bench for a sixth skater, but 12 seconds later Sherman made it 4-2, racing down the right wing and directing a backhander between Peressini’s pads. Liberati earned the lone assist on Sherman’s first goal of the campaign.

With Kment back on the bench, Amadio pulled North Bay within a goal at 19:22, driving through open ice in the slot and sweeping the puck around a fallen Peressini. Mathew Santos had the only assist on Amadio’s 12th goal, which tied the retired Zach Bratina for the team lead.

Wood had a chance to tie the game in the final seconds, but Peressini stopped a long shot and covered the loose puck in the crease before Amadio could convert.

Verbeek opened the scoring at 7:03 of the first period, putting the rebound of an Austin Grzenia shot past Kment from deep in the left circle.

Dineen tied it at 11:46 when he got loose on the left side for a feed from Vertiy, darted to the net and wheeled across the crease to stuff a backhander around Peressini. Santos had the other assist on rookie defenceman Dineen’s second goal.

Lammikko restored Kingston’s lead on the power play at 8:53 of the second period, spinning in the right circle to fire the puck past Kment, who had just come free of contact with an attacker.

The Battalion visits the Mississauga Steelheads at 7:30 p.m. Friday. The game can be seen live in North Bay on TVCogeco Cable 12 and heard on Country 600 CKAT.

BATTALION BULLETS: Amadio, who had two goals and four assists for a career-high six points in a 7-3 home-ice win Sunday over the Barrie Colts, was back with the Battalion after playing for Team OHL in the fourth game of the Canada Russia Series, a 2-1 victory Monday night at Windsor that clinched the six-game series for the Canadian Hockey League … Wood hadn’t played since the Battalion was eliminated by the Oshawa Generals in the conference final last spring. The 19-year-old native of Waterloo, Ont., a third-round pick by the Colorado Avalanche in the 2014 National Hockey League Draft, underwent surgery on a broken scaphoid bone in a wrist in Denver during the offseason. He had 16 goals and 24 assists for 40 points in 67 games last season, when he led the Troops with 11 power-play goals … Defence pairings had Dineen with Wood, Liberati with Riley Bruce and Zach Shankar with Shoemaker … Left winger Sherman returned from a groin ailment, playing for the first time since a 5-1 Battalion win Oct. 15 over visiting Oshawa … Kment is 4-3-1 since Jake Smith was sidelined with an upper-body injury after a 4-2 loss Oct. 25 at Mississauga … North Bay went 0-for-4 on the power play. Kingston was 1-for-3 … The Battalion scratched Jake Ramalho, Brett Hargrave, Brady Lyle and Kyle Moore.

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