Blackwood's 34 saves propels Barrie to 3-2 series-opening win over North Bay
Barrie Colts captain Joseph Blandisi looks to pass the puck up ice against North Bay Battalion centre Ryan Kujawinski during first period action at the Barrie Molson Centre Friday night. IAN MCINROY/BARRIE EXAMINER
The Barrie Colts and North Bay Battalion picked up right where they left off a season ago.
And once the pleasantries were out of the way, the Colts showed off their brand-new, playoff-tested improvements.
The top line struck twice and Mackenzie Blackwood made 34 saves to lift Barrie to a 3-2 win over North Bay in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals on Friday.
“We were good at sticking to our gameplan,” said Colts defenceman Jonathan Laser. “They’re a good, tight-checking team and I think we did a good job of being consistent throughout the game.”
With the win, Barrie takes a 1-0 series lead headed into Sunday’s contest.
“It was just a matter of capitalizing,” said Battalion defenceman Marcus McIvor. “They capitalized a little more on their chances than we did and it’s always going to be a close game whenever we play them.”
The Colts and Battalion didn’t take long to get re-acquainted to one another in post-season action.
Almost every whistle saw the two teams come together and begin pushing and shoving, continuing over from when these two squads met one another in the conference semifinals a year ago.
“There’s definitely a lot of familiarity there,” McIvor said. “I know, in my five years, I’ve definitely played them at least 40 times.
“They know how we’re going to play and we know how they’re going to play, so it’s just a matter of executing.”
The rough stuff would occasionally lead to power plays, and that was where the scoring in the first period would take place.
Barrie got the game’s first man advantage, and late in the power play, Rasmus Andersson took a high shot that hit the glass behind Battalion starter Jake Smith and ricocheted back off.
Smith turned all the way around to try and follow the puck, and as a result, wasn’t in position when Andrew Mangiapane snapped one in to give Barrie a 1-0 lead.
North Bay would get its own power play soon after, and evened things up thanks to a pretty tic-tac-toe play between Kyle Wood, Nick Paul, and eventually, Nick Moutrey, who swept the puck under Colts goalie Mackenzie Blackwood.
The teams continued to fight for opportunities and both had a few good chances, but Smith and Blackwood were there to make the big stops.
“Blackie has been unbelievable for us all season,” Laser said.
It took an unlikely source to finally break through for Barrie.
After Garrett Hooey tied up his man in the Colts zone, Laser stepped into his spot on an odd-man rush with Justin Scott.
Laser received a pass from Scott and was able to poke it past Smith to give Barrie a 2-1 lead.
“I just gave it over to Scotty and he’s a good playmaker,” Laser said. “He sent it back across and I got just enough on it.”
Things looked to continue to go Barrie’s way, as it received a power play moments later.
But after the Battalion cleared the puck, Andersson and Alex Henriksson were in a footrace back into the Barrie zone to get it.
Andersson went over Henriksson’s outstretched stick, forcing Blackwood to come out and play the puck behind his net.
Blackwood fired it up the boards, where Ryan Kujawinski was waiting to blast one past the still-adjusting goaltender and in, tying things up at 2-2 after 40 minutes.
Friday marked Brendan Lemieux’s return to the lineup after missing over a month between and injury and suspension.
By the third period, he was creating his own chances once again.
Lemieux exploded down the left side, getting by a defenceman before trying to fool Smith on the short side.
While the initial attempt was stopped, the rebound went into the corner, and Kevin Labanc was the first man to it.
Before getting hit, Labanc sent a pass in front to Joseph Blandisi, and the Colts captain wasted no time beating Smith to give Barrie the 3-2 advantage.
That was the only Colts shot for the first 17 minutes of the third period, although they didn’t give up a ton of attempts the other way.
When they did, Blackwood was there to make a handful of incredible saves to maintain a one-goal lead.
After robbing Brendan Miller on a cross-crease pass, Blackwood stood tall, stopping a half-dozen other attempts in the final few minutes to ensure the Colts would take Game 1 at home.
“I think you’ll definitely see a different team out there Sunday night,” said McIvor of his North Bay squad. “We’ll come out with a little more edge and a little more drive and we’ll be a lot better.”
Game 2 of the series goes on Sunday night in Barrie at 6 p.m.
COLTS ON THE SCORE SHEET:
Garrett Hooey: 2A
Jonathan Laser: 1G
Joseph Blandisi: 1G
Andrew Mangiapane: 1G
Kevin Labanc: 1A
Justin Scott: 1A
Rasmus Andersson: 1A
Brendan Lemieux: 1A
Mackenzie Blackwood: 34 saves
We meet again – The Colts and Battalion are back at it for a second straight year in the Eastern Semifinal. North Bay won the series in six years last season en route to the OHL Finals. Barrie has won four of six all-time playoff meetings with the Battalion franchise, with none of the half-dozen encounters requiring more than six games. The Colts last playoff victory against a North Bay franchise came back in 2000, when they defeated the Centennials in the first round en route to their first-ever OHL Championship.
Not dressed for tonight’s game – Barrie was without the services of Rocky Kaura, Josh Carrick, Nick Pastorious (head) and . North Bay scratched Zach Shankar, Owen Green and Mark Shoemaker.
Yasher Koach (or in English, good job!) – The Sudbury Wolves made history with the first pick of this year’s OHL Priority Selection Draft by selecting Israeli-born forward David Levin earlier today. The Richmond Hill resident, who was a star at inline hockey, didn’t begin to play competitively on the ice until moving to Canada to live with his aunt and uncle a few years ago. The remainder of the 15-round draft goes Saturday, with North Bay selecting 18th overall and Barrie picking 19th.
Penalty problems? – During the regular season, Barrie was the most penalized team, taking 1155 minutes in penalties for an average of 17 PIM/game (which excludes 10-minute misconducts). Meanwhile, North Bay, at only 742 PIM, had the second-fewest minutes (10.91 PIM/game) of any OHL team. That’s about three extra minor penalties a game for the Colts, who hope to stay out of the box more after serving just over 20 PIM/game in their series sweep over Belleville.
Out-of-town scoreboard – There were two other playoff games taking place on Friday night. Connor McDavid scored a franchise-record five goals to propel his Erie Otters to a 7-3 win over the London Knights to take a 2-0 series lead. Meanwhile, the Oshawa Generals opened their series against the Niagara IceDogs with a 5-3 win.
How the Eastern Conference Semifinal shapes up:
Game 1 – North Bay 2 @ Barrie 3
Game 2 – North Bay @ Barrie, Sunday, April 12, 6:00 p.m.
Game 3 – Barrie @ North Bay, Tuesday, April 14, 7:00 p.m.
Game 4 – Barrie @ North Bay, Thursday, April 16, 7:00 p.m.
Game 5 – North Bay @ Barrie, Saturday, April 18, 7:30 p.m. (if necessary)
Game 6 – Barrie @ North Bay, Sunday, April 19, 6:00 p.m. (if necessary)
Game 7 – North Bay @ Barrie, Tuesday, April 21, 7:30 p.m. (if necessary)