Troops Keep Marching Forward

Troops Keep Marching Forward
photo/article credit- North Bay Battalion

 Sandis Vilmanis scored two goals and added an assist to power the North Bay Battalion to a 4-1 victory Wednesday night over the Barrie Colts and into first place in the Ontario Hockey League’s Central Division.

Andrew LeBlanc and Ty Nelson each had one goal and one assist for North Bay, which improved its won-lost-extended record to 37-20-9 for 83 points, one ahead of the Mississauga Steelheads, who looked toward a Thursday night visit to the Niagara IceDogs.

Goaltender Dom DiVincentiis made 19 saves for the Battalion, second in the Eastern Conference, before a Memorial Gardens crowd of 2,723.

Kashawn Aitcheson scored for Barrie, 27-35-4 for 58 points, fourth in the division and eighth in the conference.

Goaltender Ben Hrebik faced 39 shots in his second league appearance and first start. Hrebik played in 12 games this season with the Burlington Cougars of the Ontario Junior Hockey League. He made his OHL debut last Nov. 5 in a road game against the Ottawa 67’s, allowing four goals on 17 shots in relief of Sam Hillebrandt in an 8-3 loss.

The Battalion opened the scoring at 11:44 of the first period, five seconds after Barrie killed an interference penalty to Aitcheson. Liam Arnsby fed the puck from the left corner across the goalmouth, with LeBlanc alone on a backdoor play. The goal was LeBlanc’s 16th of the season, his seventh since a trade from the Sarnia Sting.

Hrebik faced 15 shots in the frame, sprawling to foil Anthony Romani at the right post and snaring a Nelson drive from the high slot. The Colts had nine shots, with their best chances coming late when Michael Derbidge had a solid attempt from the deep slot and DiVincentiis found a low threat through traffic by Thomas Stewart.

Vilmanis connected with the man advantage at 7:24 of the middle period, charging to the net off the left wing and snapping a shot that beat Hrebik high to the glove side. Dalyn Wakely and Nelson picked up assists. It was Nelson’s 55th power-play assist, moving him one ahead of Dylan Blujus and into sole possession of fourth place on the franchise list.

Defenceman Aitcheson answered with his eighth goal at 9:39, beating DiVincentiis low to the glove side from the edge of the left circle.

The Battalion held a 16-5 edge in shots in the period with Nelson and Romani each having good chances during a late power play. Romani hustled to foil Beau Jelsma’s shorthanded breakaway attempt in the seventh minute.

Nelson made it 3-1 on the power play at 5:07 of the third period, snapping the puck past Hrebik’s glove. Brice Cooke and Vilmanis assisted on rearguard Nelson’s 16th goal, his 27th all-time with the man advantage, tying him with Jay McClement for seventh place in Battalion annals.

Hrebik went to the bench for a sixth skater with 2:52 to play. LeBlanc chipped the puck out of the North Bay zone to Vilmanis, who got past the slashing Blair Scott and hit the empty net at 17:25. It was Vilmanis’s 37th goal, his 27th in 28 games since arriving via trade from Sarnia.

The Battalion outshot Barrie 9-6 in the period. Ethan Procyszyn narrowly missed stuffing a wraparound inside the left post in the first minute, and Owen Van Steensel had a good chance on a shorthanded two-on-one rush with Arnsby in the 15th. Barrie’s best chance came when DiVincentiis denied Jelsma in close in the ninth minute.

The Battalion visits Mississauga at 7 p.m. Friday. The game can be seen live in North Bay on YourTV Channels 12 and 700.

BATTALION BULLETS: The Battalion honoured its overagers, with Arnsby, Paul Christopoulos and Justin Ertel receiving portraits by artist Jack Lockhart … North Bay went 2-3-1 in the season series … Wakely has a 10-game points streak in which he has nine goals and 13 assists for 22 points. In 197 games, he has 87 goals and 95 assists for 182 points, tied with McClement for 12th place in franchise history … In a scoring change, Romani was awarded an assist on the winning goal by Wakely in a 7-4 verdict Saturday night over the Peterborough Petes … Procyszyn returned from a one-game suspension for an accumulation of four boarding penalties, while Jacob Therrien missed the last game with a quad contusion. Ertel remained sidelined with an upper-body injury

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