Troops Need All Hands Ready
NORTH BAY, Ont. - For the North Bay Battalion, a better start has been deemed a key to success in its first-round Ontario Hockey League playoff series against the Niagara IceDogs.
Visiting Niagara defeated the Battalion 6-0 Tuesday night to take a lead of two games to one in the best-of-seven Eastern Conference quarterfinal, with the Troops also playing host to the fourth game at 7 p.m. Thursday.
"I think for our group we need everybody to be ready to play," Battalion assistant coach Adam Dennis said Wednesday. "I don't think we had that yesterday. In this kind of series, when you're playing against a skilled team like Niagara, everybody needs to be going, and I don't think we were up to the task."
Niagara took the series opener 2-0 last Thursday night at home before the Battalion won 5-2 Saturday night at St. Catharines. Andrew Bruder and Philip Tomasino then gave the IceDogs a 2-0 first-period lead, the first goal coming at 3:38, when the series shifted to North Bay.
Niagara, the highest-scoring team in the OHL this season and boasting scoring champion Jason Robertson, is known to get out of the gate quickly.
"We went over that with our group," noted Dennis. "The last 16 games coming into the playoffs Niagara was 15 and one in (first) scores, so we know that they're a good-starting team. For us it's important to match and exceed their intensity, especially at home.
"We expect our crowd to be behind us, and I think that's important. We need to use that energy and really translate it into a good start for our group."
Fans were asked to "Wear White and Make Noise" for the third game, and the same stands for the fourth.
Captain Justin Brazeau, North Bay's 61-goal scorer who finished second to Robertson in points production, acknowledged the need to offset Niagara's starts.
"I thought the first two games we did a better job of that. Then even last night, the first goal was just a bad line change and they got a goal, and then a puck off a skate. It's a 6-0 game last night, but I think some of those goals are preventable by us. It's not really what they're doing so well. It's kind of what we're doing to ourselves.
"At the end of the second going into the third, we had some chances. I think if we score it kind of changes the outcome of the game, so if we just clean up little things like that I think we'll be fine."
Tomasino scored the last goal, his second of the game, on the power play at 17:53 of the third period after the Troops saw Daniel Walker issued a slashing major and game misconduct and Theo Calvas a roughing minor and misconduct while Niagara's Drew Hunter was handed a roughing minor at 14:25.
Jack Studnicka slashed Walker without penalty, and the Battalion winger slashed Robertson, the closest opponent to him, in retaliation. The league has said no further discipline is coming to Walker for the incident.
Jacob Paquette received a boarding major and game misconduct early in the second period after slamming Brazeau into the end boards. It wasn't known whether Paquette will incur further punishment.
"It's playoffs - it's physical out there," said Brazeau. "I wasn't really expecting it, but I just caught my breath there a little bit and I was fine."
Dennis said the Battalion won't stop applying the body.
"If any team's going to come in and beat us in our rink, you want to make sure that they leave with a couple of bumps and bruises. I think it's important with our team, we're a physical group, so finishing our checks is huge. That's always been a hallmark of this team, and it's something that we need to continue."
Apart from that, Dennis suggested, Game 4 represents another day.
"We've got to have a short memory. As bad as we felt yesterday, it's still only one loss and we're in a playoff series, so it's time to reset."
The game is sponsored by the Calendar Bay Dental Centre in support of its 'Smiles for Life' teeth-whitening campaign in conjunction with the Nipissing Association for Disabled Youth.
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Ontario Hockey League Stories from March 27, 2019
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- Penalty Woes Sink Attack in 5-2 Loss to Greyhounds - Owen Sound Attack
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