Vilmanis paces OT victory

Vilmanis paces OT victory
Photo/article credit- North Bay Battalion

Sandis Vilmanis’s second goal of the game, at 6:02 of overtime, gave the North Bay Battalion a 5-4 Ontario Hockey League victory Wednesday night over the Oshawa Generals and continuing life in their best-of-seven Eastern Conference Championship Series.

Vilmanis added two assists for a four-point game as North Bay cut Oshawa’s lead to 3-1 in games and forced Game 5 at the Tribute Communities Centre at 7:35 p.m. Friday.

Liam Arnsby and Paul Christopoulos each had one goal and one assist and Tnias Mathurin provided the other goal for the second-seeded Battalion. Goaltender Mike McIvor made 27 saves, including six in overtime, before a sellout crowd of 4,192 at Memorial Gardens.

Anthony Romani returned from a lower-body injury suffered in a 4-2 home-ice victory March 28 in Game 1 of a conference quarterfinal against the Kingston Frontenacs. The 58-goal scorer in the regular season opened the scoring in the first period and was run into the boards by Quinton Burns while celebrating in the corner.

Beckett Sennecke scored two goals and added an assist for top-seeded Oshawa, which got its other goals from Connor Lockhart and Dylan Roobroeck. Goaltender Jacob Oster had 38 saves, giving up Vilmanis’s winner on the second North Bay shot in overtime.

Vilmanis drove down the right wing and drilled the puck past Oster from the circle. Arnsby and Justin Ertel assisted on Vilmanis’s ninth goal of the playoffs. It was his third game-winning postseason goal, tied with six others for sixth place in franchise history.

The Battalion, which trailed 3-2 at the second intermission, tied it on Mathurin’s first OHL playoff goal at 9:55 of the third period. Defenceman Mathurin slipped into the mid slot to take a pass from Romani deep on the right wing and whistled the puck past Oster high to the glove side. Dalyn Wakely also assisted.

Sennecke gave Oshawa a 4-3 lead 56 seconds later on a snap shot from the top of the left circle for his team-leading 10th goal. It survived a lengthy video review for goaltender interference as Lockhart jostled McIvor before the puck arrived.

McIvor was on the bench for a sixth attacker when Christopoulos fired the puck from a sharp angle on the right boards and had it beat Oster over the right shoulder at 18:51, precipitating overtime. Wakely and Vilmanis assisted on defenceman Christopoulos’s second goal.

Trailing 2-1 after 20 minutes, Oshawa tied it at 3:50 of the second period when Sennecke found himself alone in front of the net off a right-wing faceoff and put the puck under McIvor.

Roobroeck struck shorthanded at 6:35 for his eighth goal, stealing the puck from Vilmanis at the Oshawa blue line and breaking away to tuck the puck around the sprawling McIvor on the forehand.

The Battalion, which had three power plays in the rest of the period, applied good pressure late in a roughing call to Sennecke at 12:40 and for some time after it expired, but Oster was solid and the Troops fired wide on several chances.

Arnsby struck first 38 seconds into the game after Ty Nelson worked down the left wing around Sennecke and drove toward the net, backhanding the puck into the goalmouth. Arnsby shoveled it home, with Vilmanis also assisting on Arnsby’s first goal of the postseason.

Vilmanis scored at 7:35, dashing down the left boards around Zackary Sandhu and backhanding the puck between Oster’s legs. Christopoulos drew the lone assist.

Lockhart replied with his fifth goal at 17:00, converting a pass from Sennecke in the left corner. Calum Ritchie had the second assist.

BATTALION BULLETS: In 46 playoff games, Wakely has 18 goals and 14 assists for 32 points, tied with Kyle Jackson and Matvey Petrov for ninth place in franchise history … In 13 postseason games, Vilmanis has nine goals and 13 assists for 22 points, while in 32 games Ertel has seven goals and 15 assists for 22 points. They are tied for 20th place in franchise annals. Ertel has 47 penalty minutes, tied with Rostislav Klesla for seventh all-time … In 40 games, Arnsby has eight goals and 11 assists for 19 points, tied with Dylan Blujus and Marcus McIvor for 23rd place … Wakely, Nelson, Christopoulos and Owen Van Steensel all played a 46th playoff game, tying Riley Bruce for ninth place in franchise history … The Battalion went 0-for-3 on the power play. Oshawa was 0-for-1 … Opening lines saw Wakely centring left winger Van Steensel and right winger Romani, Arnsby centring left winger Ertel and right winger Vilmanis and Ethan Procyszyn pivoting left winger Andrew LeBlanc and right winger Jacob Therrien. Brice Cooke centred left winger Ihnat Pazii and right winger Lirim Amidovski … The Battalion scratched Dom DiVincentiis, Brayden Turley, Dylan Richter, Trevor McDowell, Nolan Laird and Stef Forgione … Oshawa was without Connor Punnett, who left Game 3 with no weight on his left knee after attempting a high hit on Vilmanis, who fell on the defender. Punnett was on the ice for warmup but left almost immediately … Sennecke has a nine-game points streak in which he has seven goals and nine assists for 16 points.

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