The Barrie Colts took it on the chin from the Kingston Frontenacs early and often, April 12, at the Barrie Molson Centre and now they find themselves on the brink of Ontario Hockey League playoff elimination. The Frontenacs exploded for five first-period goals enroute to a 7-1 game-five romp and can wrap up the best-of-seven Eastern Conference semifinal series tonight back in Kingston.
Max Jones and Gabriel Vilardi, his first of two on the night, scored a little more than five minutes into the contest and the Frontenacs would never let the Colts get up off the mat. Jason Willms cut the lead to one just past the midway part of the first period, but a Kingston club, fired up after two straight wins on home ice, buried the Colts with three more goals before the period was over.
“It’s obviously the kind of game at home you don’t want to have in a game five, but you know it happened,” Colts head coach Dale Hawerchuk said. “Sometimes you got to live through those and it’s how you respond.”
With their playoffs lives at stake tonight, the Colts can ill afford to dwell on a rough night.
“We were put to the test tonight and we’ll be put to it Friday night (April 13),” Hawerchuk said. “This is spilt milk and now you got to respond. If you don’t win, you go home.”
Down 5-1 heading into the second period and looking to get his team going, Hawerchuk pulled starting goaltender Leo Lazarev, who gave up five goals on 16 shots, and replaced him with Kai Edmonds. The Frontenacs, though, didn’t give the rookie much time to get his footing in the Barrie net. Sean Day scored less than two minutes in and then Matt Hotchkiss put the icing on the cake with another goal late in the same frame. Lazarev, who has been so good in these playoffs, struggled, though he didn’t get much help either. The Colts got away from their game and they paid a heavy price for it.
“One thing that’s always important is your discipline obviously to stay out of the penalty box, but also your discipline to the structure,” Hawerchuk said. “When the guys are on the same page, then you can play the game at a swifter pace.
“But tonight we got off on our own agenda at times and it cost us.”
Defensively the Colts were a mess from the drop of the puck. They appeared rattled after giving up the early goals and never recovered. Give a Kingston team that includes top NHL prospects like Jason Robertson (Dallas), Jones (Anaheim) and Vilardi (Los Angeles) a ton of odd-man rushes and they’ll make you pay.
“We made some poor decisions on pinches and we just weren’t good at the blue line,” Hawerchuk said. “We were turning pucks over at both blue lines and that’s usually a staple for us.”
Brett Neumann and Robertson also found the back of the net for the Frontenacs, who have now won three straight games after dropping their opening two games of the series in Barrie. Jeremy Helvig kicked aside 32 shots in a game he and the Frontenacs dominated.
The quick turnaround can perhaps only help a Colts team who know they have to be better if they are going to push this to a seventh and deciding game back in Barrie on April 16.
“I think when you have a game like this, you want to get back on the ice and turn it around as fast as you can for sure,” Hawerchuk said.
Game time at the Rogers K-Rock Centre is 7 p.m.
ICE CHIPS: The winner of this series will advance to meet the Hamilton Bulldogs in the Eastern Conference final. The Bulldogs eliminated the Niagara IceDogs in five games, wrapping up the best-of-seven series with a 4-2 win, April 12, in Hamilton.
Photo: Dmitry Sokolov and the Barrie Colts find themselves on the brink of playoff elimination after a 7-1 thrashing at the hands of the Kingston Frontenacs, April 12, at the Barrie Molson Centre. Game six goes, April 13, at the Rogers K-Rock Centre in Kingston. Terry Wilson/OHL Images photo.