Brazeau nets two, takes lead in OHL scoring race
Justin Brazeau’s second goal of the game, at 2:33 of overtime, gave the North Bay Battalion a 4-3 victory Thursday night over the Mississauga Steelheads in the teams’ battle for positioning in the Ontario Hockey League’s Central Division.
Nick King and Theo Calvas also scored for North Bay and Brazeau added an assist as the Battalion improved its won-lost-extended record to 20-18-3 for 43 points, two more than Mississauga and third in the division. Goaltender Christian Propp contributed 36 saves before 2,276 at Memorial Gardens as the Troops rallied from a 2-0 first-period deficit.
The three-point game saw Brazeau climb into first place in the OHL scoring race with 39 goals and 32 assists for 71 points in 41 games, two points ahead of Tye Felhaber of the Ottawa 67’s.
Aidan Prueter, Cole Schwindt and Keean Washkurak scored for Mississauga, 18-17-5 for 41 points in fourth place in the division. Joe Ranger faced 27 shots in the Mississauga net.
“The best thing that happened tonight was we got two points,” said Battalion assistant coach Adam Dennis. “I don’t think we played very well. We chased the game for most of the night. We got some big saves in the third and we capitalized in overtime. That’s the best that I can say about it, because it was pretty ugly.”
Dennis said he felt Propp rebounded after a tough start.
“He started a little bit slow. The first goal is one he could probably play a little differently. But after that he really held us in there. It’s not always about how many saves you make but about the timing of them. He made a really big backdoor save late and then there was the wraparound save in overtime, and then we went down and scored. When you can get those big saves, they can turn the momentum of the game.”
The teams were tied 3-3 through 40 minutes, and Mississauga dominated the third period, forcing Propp to make 19 saves, none bigger than when he slid in the crease to deny Cole Carter at the left post in the 11th minute with the Steelheads on the power play.
The Battalion had several chances early in overtime and, after Propp made back-to-back saves on Alan Lyszczarczyk, a stretch pass by Matthew Struthers sent Brazeau in on a breakaway to whip a wrister past Ranger’s blocker.
Prueter opened the scoring 46 seconds into the first period, capitalizing on a Calvas turnover deep in Battalion territory by driving to the net and lofting a backhander over Propp’s glove. Another turnover led to Mississauga’s second goal as Schwindt intercepted a Braden Henderson clearing attempt and eventually scored off a pass from Lyszczarczyk at 18:42.
With the Troops forging an 11-9 edge in shots, Ranger was solid on chances for Brazeau, Struthers, Brad Chenier and Brandon Coe. The Battalion failed to generate a good scoring opportunity after Liam Ham went off for both holding and roughing at 13:30.
North Bay tied the game with goals 1:13 apart in the second period, sparked by King connecting on the power play at 4:51 when he beat Ranger to the short side from deep in the left-wing circle. Chenier and Brazeau assisted on defenceman King’s seventh goal.
Calvas found the equalizer at 6:04 when his slap shot from the top of the right circle eluded a sprawling Ranger. Coe earned the only assist on Calvas’s first goal since last Jan. 17 when he scored as a member of the Sarnia Sting in a 6-3 road win over the Flint Firebirds.
Washkurak put Mississauga back in front with the man advantage at 9:47, converting a Carter pass on a backdoor play at the right post.
Brazeau tied it at 10:54 when he tipped a screened right-point shot by David Maier between Ranger’s pads. Struthers also earned an assist.
The Battalion opens a two-game weekend road trip when it faces the Peterborough Petes at 7:05 p.m. Saturday. The game can be seen live in North Bay on YourTV Channels 12 and 700 and heard on Country 600 CKAT.