Troops up 2-0 in series

Troops up 2-0 in series
Photo/article credit- North Bay Battalion

Justin Ertel scored one goal and added an assist as the North Bay Battalion defeated the Sudbury Wolves 5-1 Saturday night, holding serve in a pair of Ontario Hockey League home dates to seize a 2-0 lead in games in their best-of-seven Eastern Conference semifinal.

Sandis Vilmanis, Jacob Therrien, Ihnat Pazii and Owen Van Steensel, into an empty net, provided a goal apiece for second-seeded North Bay, while rookie goaltender Mike McIvor shone with 35 saves before a sellout crowd of 4,226 at Memorial Gardens.

Kocha Delic had the lone goal for fifth-seeded Sudbury late in the third period after the Battalion forged a 5-0 lead. Goaltender Marcus Vandenberg allowed four goals on 29 shots.

“It was really important, I think, in this series to hold court on home ice, because it’s going to be a completely different animal going into their building, one of the toughest places to win in the league,” said Battalion coach Ryan Oulahen. “It was important to get that one.

“I really liked our start. It was 2-0 for a long time, a little bit longer than I would have liked, but the guys stuck with it, and some really good performances here tonight.”

The Battalion, which won 5-2 Thursday night, built a 2-0 first-period lead and carried it into the final frame before Ertel scored at 4:53, deflecting home a Tnias Mathurin drive from the left circle. Ertel’s fifth goal of the playoffs, also assisted by Ethan Procyszyn, survived a video review for a high stick.

Pazii took a pass from Mathurin, dashed down the left boards and beat Vandenberg over his glove from a wide angle for a second postseason goal at 6:12, making it 4-0.

With Dalyn Wakely sent off for crosschecking at 12:14, Vandenberg was pulled for an extra attacker as the Wolves skated six-on-four. The strategy backfired when Van Steensel wristed the puck from his own zone into the empty net for a shorthanded goal at 13:51. Unassisted, it was his third.

Delic cashed his own rebound on the power play at 15:57 for his fourth goal to complete the scoring.

Vilmanis struck 24 seconds after the opening faceoff, snapping the puck past David Goyette, who screened Vandenberg, from the left wing after Ertel made minimal contact with the disc crossing the offensive zone. It was Vilmanis’s second goal.

Therrien raced down the left wing from his own blue line, cut toward the middle and beat Vandenberg cleanly at 14:14. Therrien’s second goal, what proved to be the winner, was unassisted.

Nathan Villeneuve celebrated what he thought was a Sudbury goal at 13:53, but the play was immediately waved off. Video review confirmed that Villeneuve wielded a high stick.

The scoreless second period, in which Sudbury held a 14-11 edge in shots, saw a rash of penalties, including six for roughing, four of them to North Bay. The Battalion killed three penalties and the Wolves two.

The Troops besieged the Sudbury net, enjoying a flurry of chances, early in the frame with the teams skating four a side before Vandenberg ended the sequence by gloving a Vilmanis drive. McIvor stoned Chase Coughlan at pointblank range in the 20th minute.

The series shifts to Sudbury for two games, the first of which is scheduled at 7:05 p.m. Tuesday. It can be seen live in North Bay on YourTV Channels 12 and 700.

BATTALION BULLETS: The Battalion has a won-lost record of 101-110 in 211 postseason games, including 56-50 at home. The Troops are 54-44 in 98 games since relocation to North Bay in 2013, with a home record of 32-18 … The Battalion is 17-24 all-time in the second game of a playoff series, including 12-15 at home … In 40 playoff games, Van Steensel has 11 goals and 15 assists for 26 points, good for 14th place in franchise history. He has three shorthanded goals, tied with Nick Paul for second place all-time … Vilmanis led the Troops with six shots on goal, while Wakely and Ty Nelson each had five. Quentin Musty and Dalibor Dvorsky had five apiece for Sudbury … Stef Forgione broke in alone on Vandenberg in the third minute of the first period but was denied … The Battalion went 0-for-3 on the power play. Sudbury was 1-for-7 … Opening lines saw Wakely centring left winger Van Steensel and right winger Therrien, Procyszyn centring left winger Ertel and right winger Vilmanis and Brice Cooke pivoting left winger Pazii and right winger Andrew LeBlanc. Dylan Richter centred left winger 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 third game of a six-game suspension … Easton Rye again backed up McIvor … Sudbury scratches included Lukas Signoretti and Jakub Vondras, with Nate Krawchuk again backing up Vandenberg.

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