Clutch performances by Gabe Vilardi and Jeremy Helvig have the Kingston Frontenacs back in their Eastern Conference semifinal series against the Barrie Colts.

Vilardi scored the winner from a bad angle with 8:13 remaining in the game, while Helvig shined in goal, making 28 saves, to lead the Frontenacs to a 4-2 win over the Colts, April 8, at the Rogers K-Rock Centre. The win cuts Barrie’s best-of-seven series lead to two games to one, heading into game four, April 10, back in Kingston. Puck drop is 7 p.m.

Down 2-1 early in the third period and on the power play, the Colts tied the contest at 6:27 when Dmitry Sokolov wired a slapshot from the faceoff circle into the top corner past Helvig.

Some five minutes later the Colts nearly took the lead but Ryan Suzuki was turned away in front by Helvig. Brett Neumann picked up the loose puck and raced down the left side into the Barrie end, turned and found a streaking Vilardi across the ice. The Los Angeles Kings prospect spun around Suzuki and from the corner, along the goal line, fired the puck over the shoulder of Barrie goaltender Leo Lazarev to give Kingston a 3-2 lead. Vilardi’s second of the game, into an empty net, iced the win with 52 seconds remaining in regulation time.

While Vilardi was the offensive star on this night with three points, Helvig was the difference maker. The Carolina Hurricanes prospect made several key stops in helping Kingston avoid being put on the brink of elimination. His biggest stop came midway in the second period when Zachary Magwood setup Lucas Chiodo for a one-timer in the slot, but Helvig shot out his left pad to help his club hold on to a slim 2-1 lead.

The Frontenacs jumped out in front on a pair of power-play goals a minute apart in the first period. Jakob Brahaney hammered a point drive past Lazarev at 8:32 and then Vilardi got the puck at the side of the net, spun and slid it to Linus Nyman in front to put the home side up, 2-0.

Andrei Svechnikov would cut the lead in half late in the first on a dynamic solo effort with Barrie on the power play. Corralling the puck in his own end, he cut past Vilardi and raced down the ice where he would walk around Frontenacs defenceman Liam Murray, before firing it on the far side, over the right pad of Helvig.

ICE CHIPS: Kingston got a huge boost to its lineup with the return of power forward Max Jones. The Anaheim Ducks prospect had been out with a broken finger since Jan. 21. . . Frontenacs captain Ted Nichol dodged league discipline and was in the lineup. Nichol received a game misconduct in the opening period of game two for a check from behind on Barrie’s Jaden Peca. . . Kudos to the Frontenacs organization who held a moment of silence, with both teams gathered around centre ice, in honour of the Humboldt Broncos. The Saskatchewan junior team’s bus was involved in a tragic crash the claimed 15 members of the organization. The organization also raised $11,900 through the 50/50 draw that will go to support members of the Humboldt team and their families.

Photo: Jeremy Helvig made 28 saves to lead the Kingston Frontenacs to a 4-2 win over the Barrie Colts, April 8, at the Rogers K-Rock Centre. The Colts still lead the best-of-seven Eastern Conference semifinal series, two games to one.

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