Barrie Colts forward Matej Pekar took care of the one thing missing from the team photo at centre ice with the club’s season ticket holders after their OHL home opener Saturday night against the London Knights.
The second-year winger skated over and took the waiting youngster into his arms and then headed back before plopping himself and the child into the middle of the picture.
Pekar seemed to do it all for the Colts on the opening weekend of the regular season.
A night after scoring twice in a 3-0 win in North Bay, the Buffalo Sabres prospect recorded the hat trick and added a helper for four points in a 6-2 come-from-behind win over London at the Colts Centre.
The 19-year-old Czech Rep. native is expected to be one of Barrie’s main contributors this season and he’s determined not to let them down.
“I’m trying,” Pekar said of being one of the leaders. “I’m trying to do my best here. I feel the coach (Warren Rychel) has given me lots of ice time, lots of confidence in me and I’m trying to give it back on the ice.
“So far I’m trying my best and I’m glad how it went today.”
Pekar was a force for the Colts in both weekend wins, whether he had the puck or not.
When he didn’t, he’s was constantly buzzing on the ice, strong on the forecheck. When he did, he was making things happen on offence.
On Saturday with the Colts trailing, 2-1, in the second period, he started the comeback when he buried his first of the night on a rebound to tie it and then completed the scoring on a beauty second effort in a four-goal Barrie outburst in the third.
After getting around London defenceman Gerard Keane and cutting in front, Pekar’s first attempt was stopped by goaltender Jordan Kooy. Despite getting hauled down by Keane in the process, Pekar never gave up on the play and he managed to slide the rebound in while he was on his knees.
Quite the way to cap off an impressive weekend.
“He’s moving down the right wing and he’s got a lot of juice in him,” Rychel said of Pekar. “He’s got a lot of attitude to him too. He’s always chirping and he takes things on his back, and he leads by example.
“I’m glad he’s a Barrie Colt.”
Pekar loves the game and that shows when he’s on the ice and around his teammates. He admits he was thrilled to get the year going, especially after an injury brought an early end to last season.
The six-foot-one, 185-pound forward suffered a broken collarbone in a game against Sudbury on Jan. 10th and he could only watch as a rebuilding Barrie team fell short of making the playoffs. He admits it was frustrating not being able to help his teammates on the ice.
“I wasn’t injured for five years before that and all of a sudden I had a big injury, so it was definitely something hard to go through,” said Pekar, who had another strong performance at training camp with Buffalo and was rewarded with an NHL contract. “It’s great to be back.
“The boys have been great to me and everybody’s trying to help each other, so I’m happy to be here.”
Along with this being Pekar’s first hat trick in the OHL, it was also a night of firsts for a few other Colts. Vancouver Canucks prospect Arturs Silovs shook off some early jitters and turned aside 37 shots in an impressive effort to record a win in his OHL crease debut.
Fourth-overall pick Brandt Clarke drew an assist for his first OHL point and Rychel collected his first official win behind the bench on home ice.
And it all came against the No. 1 ranked team in the CHL Top 10 Rankings.
“That was (Silov’s) first North American start,” Rychel said. “It’s a tough place to be and I thought he settled in.”
Captain Jason Willms also had a huge effort for the home side. Willms scored on the power play to tie it in the first and then set up the game winner 7:50 into the third when he stripped London’s Josh Nelson of the puck in the corner and fed linemate Tyson Foerster in the slot.
“That was a huge forecheck by Willms,” Rychel said.
Veteran Luke Bignell scored his first of the season on a power drive to the net to round out the scoring for Barrie. Antonio Stranges and Connor McMichael replied for London (0-2).
“It’s a good start,” Rychel added. “People know we have two good goalies now. I really like how we came out in the third period and we defended our own arena, so that was huge.”
ICE CHIPS: After a slow start by the Colts, two massive open-ice hits by Aidan Brown and Bignell proved a big spark. “We needed the energy,” Rychel said. “I thought they had really great shifts. They had clean hits with no penalties and that’s key.” . . . The Colts are celebrating their 25th anniversary season and honoured their 1994-95 expansion team that made the playoffs before the game. . . Tyler Tucker had three assists against the Knights. . . Barrie dominated the face-off circle, winning 46 of 70 draws.
PHOTO: Matej Pekar had the hat trick and added an assist to lead the Barrie Colts to a 6-2 win over the London Knights in their OHL home opener, Saturday night, at Colts Centre. Pekar had five goals and assist in Barrie’s opening two games this weekend. Terry Wilson/OHL Images