Battalion sweeps Sudbury

Battalion sweeps Sudbury
Photo/article credit- North Bay Battalion

The North Bay Battalion has sent the Sudbury Wolves packing.

Sandis Vilmanis scored three goals and assisted on another, powering North Bay to a 5-0 Ontario Hockey League victory Thursday night and a sweep of the teams’ best-of-seven Eastern Conference semifinal.

Dalyn Wakely scored two goals, and rookie goaltender Mike McIvor made 36 saves for his first playoff shutout before a Sudbury Community Arena crowd of 4,827. Justin Ertel contributed three assists.

Second-seeded North Bay advances to the conference final against the top-seeded Oshawa Generals, who defeated the host Ottawa 67’s 4-1 to sweep their semifinal.

Sudbury starting goaltender Jakub Vondras surrendered three goals on six shots before being relieved by Marcus Vandenberg. He stopped all 13 shots he faced, with Wakely and Vilmanis both scoring into an empty net.

The fifth-seeded Wolves, who dressed 11 forwards and seven defencemen, were without Quentin Musty, who left Game 3 in the final minutes of the third period after Ertel was handed a crosschecking penalty for contact along the boards. Musty returned in overtime of a 6-5 Battalion road victory Tuesday night.

North Bay seized a 3-0 first-period lead and held it into the final stages despite being outshot 36-21 overall. Sudbury had its chances but seemed out of synch for much of the game, putting in an oftentimes lacklustre performance despite facing elimination.

Vilmanis started the scoring 28 seconds after the opening faceoff, taking a feed from Ertel in the slot and beating Vondras between the legs.

Wakely struck on the power play at 2:23, one-timing the puck from the left faceoff dot off a cross-ice pass from Vilmanis. Ertel also assisted.

Vilmanis drove down the left wing past Noah Van Vliet and cut toward the net, snapping the disc behind Vondras at 17:52 and ending his night. Ertel had the sole assist.

Sudbury, which held a 10-6 edge in first-period shots, won the middle-period count by a 14-6 margin, but the Battalion, backstopped by the acrobatic McIvor, kept its net front clean with timely puck-clearing. Each team had a power-play opportunity in the scoreless session.

Tnias Mathurin put the puck into the stands for a delay-of-game penalty at 10:25 of the third period, but Sudbury failed to mount a sustained attack.

Vandenberg, who retreated to his crease after an aborted attempt to go to the bench, gloved a pointblank drive by Ertel at 14:10 before leaving for a sixth skater with 5:15 to play.

Wakely stripped Nathan Villeneuve of the puck in the offensive zone and hit the vacant cage at 15:23, giving the Troops a 4-0 lead. The goal was Wakely’s league-leading 11th of the playoffs.

Vilmanis moved down the right-wing boards and darted past lethargic defenders Zacharie Giroux and Dalibor Dvorsky at the blue line before backhanding the puck into the empty net from a sharp angle at 17:10. Ty Nelson and Wyatt Kennedy drew assists.

With five goals and 11 assists for 16 points in nine games, Vilmanis climbed into a three-way tie atop the OHL playoff scoring race.

BATTALION BULLETS: The Battalion has a won-lost record of 103-110 in 213 postseason games, including 47-59 on the road. The Troops are 56-44 in 100 games since relocation to North Bay in 2013, with a road record of 24-25 … The Troops are 18-23 in the fourth game of a playoff series, including 12-9 on the road … The Battalion has won seven series in four-game sweeps, including Brampton’s elimination of Sudbury in a 2012 conference quarterfinal … In 42 playoff games, Wakely has 17 goals and 11 assists for 28 points, tied with Matt Duchene for 14th place in franchise history. Wakely’s 17 goals are seventh in franchise annals, one more than Kyle Jackson amassed … In 29 games, Ertel has seven goals and 14 assists for 21 points, tied with Brandon Coe for 20th place all-time … North Bay went 1-for-3 on the power play. Sudbury was 0-for-3 … Opening lines saw Wakely centring left winger Owen Van Steensel and right winger Jacob Therrien, Ethan Procyszyn centring left winger Ertel and right winger Vilmanis and Brice Cooke pivoting left winger Ihnat Pazii and right winger Andrew LeBlanc. Dylan Richter centred left winger Stef Forgione and right winger Lirim Amidovski … The Battalion was without Dom DiVincentiis, Brayden Turley, Liam Arnsby, Trevor McDowell, Anthony Romani and Nolan Laird … Arnsby served the fifth game of a six-game suspension … Charlie Larocque backed up McIvor … Ryan Elbers and Mac Nichol were the referees.

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