With a packed house on Timbit Jamboree Day at the Yardmen, a playoff atmosphere played host to the Bulls and Colts as both clubs were ready to go off the drop of the puck despite a lengthy delay prior to things getting underway. Originally slated to begin at 2:00pm, the game was pushed back to 4:00pm with the Colts sitting in traffic eastbound on the 401 just past Cobourg due to an accident involving a tractor-trailer.
Despite the bus legs and hours of added anticipation on the Belleville side of things, both clubs looked fresh out of the gate. The Bulls looked particularly strong in the game’s opening minutes, winning the little battles and maintainging possession in the Barrie zone.
Barrie goaltender Mathias Niederberger was especially sharp in the first, battling through traffic to make some big saves off tips and deflections with the Bulls driving the net hard. The Bulls controlled the puck well on two first period advantages, breaching the Barrie perimeter but couldn’t get past Niederberger.
Belleville outshot Barrie 10-7 in the opening twenty minutes, registering six scoring chances to the Colts’ two.Barrie Head Coach Dale Hawerchuk was trying to mix and match early on, double shifting Mark Scheifele at times in search of a mismatch with the Bulls having last change at home.
The Bulls did a good job limited a potent Barrie offence as there were few dangerous turnovers and when they did happen, Belleville found ways to make up the ground they gave away.
The Colts took a big blow in the first, losing top pairing defender Alex Lepkowski off a blocked shot from the stick of Carter Sandlak coming down the wing. Lepkowski would miss the remainder of the first and return midway through the second as the Colts toughed it out down a man on the backend.
The Bulls broke through five minutes into the second as Tyler Graovac hammered home a rebound as he drove down the middle for his 31st of the season. Jordan Subban made the goal possible as he blazed down his off-wing, snapping a low wrister on the pads of Niederberger to inspire a rebound and make it 1-0 Belleville.
Despite taking the lead, the Colts would have the better second period opportunities as Malcolm Subban rebounded well after being pulled from Saturday night’s win over Sudbury. Subban held Barrie off the board four-on-four at the midway point of the second as local talent Alex Yuill tried to hook up with forward Andreas Athanasiou but Subban held tight to his post and stopped numerous efforts from Athanasiou on the goal line. On the same four-on-four, Subban came up big again, thwarting both Zach Hall and Michael Webster on bang-bang saves as the Colts controlled the four-on-four scenarios.
Barrie was given opportunities on second period powerplays, with the first coming after Malcolm Subban was caught handling the puck outside of the trapezoid on a delay of game call. The Colts buzzed on the ensuing powerplay with Subban coming up with a big save off Ryan O’Connor as he slipped in off the point
The Colts pressed late in the second as Subban was big again, stopping Erik Bradford as he come down on a two-on-one with teammate Cody Brown. Bradford, whose presence was felt particularly on the penalty kill, managed to register a quality chance shorthanded to close out the second with Subban making a good butterfly save.
The Bulls went on the man advantage five minutes into the third but the powerplay was quickly broken up as Austen Brassard was sent off on a double-minor that included the extra two for unsportsmanlike. The Colts couldn’t capitalize on a 2:25 powerplay as Belleville’s penalty killers were paying the price to bring in two points. Jake Worrad blocked five shots on the afternoon while Brendan Gaunce logged big minutes in the absence of fellow PK specialist Michael Curtis who was out with a lower body injury.
Barrie poured on the pressure as the third period wore on, but the Bulls caught a break midway through. Subban made a big save off Josh MacDonald, with the rebound coming out to Brady Austin, who chipped up to Brendan Gaunce. Gaunce found Joseph Cramarossa screaming over the Belleville blueline as he was off to the races on a breakaway. Cramarossa wasn’t able to register a shot on the play though, as he was hauled down by retreating Barrie defender Jonathan Laser. Cramarossa was awarded a penalty shot, and beat Niederberger on a backhand move through the five hole to give Belleville a 2-0 lead.
Barrie poured on the pressure late, as the Bulls ran into penalty trouble with Stephen Silas and Brady Austin in the box. To add to the offensive onslaught, Dale Hawerchuk removed Niederberger to give the Colts a six-on-three. Brendan Gaunce, Adam Bignell and Joseph Cramarossa and Scott Simmonds did laymen’s work to keep the Colts off the board.
The Bulls capped off their 3-0 victory as Brendan Gaunce notched his 25th goal of the season into the empty net shorthanded. Jake Worrad pried a puck free from the stick of Mark Scheifele as Joseph Cramarossa found Gaunce who finished the job.
The Bulls take sole possession of the Eastern Conference lead, sitting a point ahead of Barrie with two games in hand. Barrie’s Zach Hall was named the third star of the afternoon while Malcolm Subban’s 29 save shutout earned him second star of the game. Joseph Cramarossa was the first star with a goal and an assist in the win.
The Barrie Colts will now have two much needed days off before taking on a tough opponent, the Owen Sound Attack. Game time is 7:30 at the Barrie Molson Centre. Click here for tickets.