The Barrie Colts playoff hopes are on life support.
The North Bay Battalion dealt the Colts postseason push a big blow with a 6-2 victory in OHL action, March 12, at the North Bay Memorial Gardens.
With only three games remaining in the regular season schedule, the Colts now trail the Battalion by five points for eighth place and the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference standings.
“I thought we had a poor start,” said Colts head coach Dale Hawerchuk, whose club trailed just 1:22 in and then 3-0 a little after the midway mark of the opening period. “Maybe it was stage fright, we just tried to do too much.
“I think individually they all wanted to do their part more instead of just keeping it simple early, keep it going and keep the game in front of us. We got ourselves in trouble.”
A North Bay win or Barrie loss will eliminate the Colts, who will look to keep their fragile playoff hopes alive tonight when they visit the Owen Sound Attack.
“We’ve got to take care of our own business,” Hawerchuk said. “You never know.”
Justin Brazeau has done a number on the Colts all season and the Battalion captain did it again, recording the hat trick to lead the attack for North Bay. Brazeau now has 58 goals on the season and is tied with Ottawa 67’s forward Tye Felhaber for the OHL goal-scoring lead.
Mason Primeau, with a pair, and Brad Chenier also scored for the Battalion (28-32-3-2), which now only trail the Hamilton Bulldogs by two points for seventh place in the conference.
Tyler Tucker and Tyson Foerster scored for the Colts (26-35-3-1), who ran into penalty trouble and gave up three power-play goals to a Battalion power-play unit that is ranked sixth in the OHL.
Tucker cut the North Bay lead to 3-1 late in the first, when his point shot found its way through heavy traffic and past goaltender Christian Propp, but the Battalion would score twice with the man advantage in a three-goal second period to put the game away.
“We really struggled,” Hawerchuk said. “Some of the calls I didn’t like, but we talked about how we didn’t want to give their power play too many opportunities and we did. We’re playing a team that has a good power play, especially in its barn. “We didn’t take care of business that way.”
A young, rebuilding Colts team has pushed hard over the last few weeks to get themselves into the playoff picture, but key injuries to Matej Pekar and Jacob Tortora, two of their top scorers, have been hard to overcome. Barrie was dealt another blow last weekend when defenceman Jack York, who has missed the last two games, suffered a nasty cut on his knee that forced him to miss the last two games.
“I think you see it in the last few weeks we’ve been missing a couple of our game breakers,” Hawerchuk said. “We’ve been asking a lot from some of the kids who don’t have the mileage yet right now, but as the season goes on, as you get closer to playoffs, it gets more and more difficult.”
Hawerchuk says that while taking key pieces like that out of the lineup certainly makes it more difficult, the opportunity is there for others.
“I just thought early on tonight we just wanted it too much instead of just doing what each guy does best,” he added. “Stay at home defenceman, don’t overdue that. If you’re a grinder, grind. If you’re a shooter, shoot. I thought everybody was trying to do a little too much and they got us on our heels and we just couldn’t recover.”
After the trip down Highway 26 tonight, the Colts finish the regular season schedule with a game against the Niagara IceDogs, Mar. 16, at the Barrie Molson Centre and then the hit the road the next afternoon to take on the Mississauga Steelheads at the Paramount Fine Foods Centre.
North Bay hosts Hamilton on Mar. 14, before a road contest in Mississauga the next night. They wrap up the regular season at home on Mar. 17 against Niagara.
“We just got to come out and better right off the bat,” Hawerchuk said of the contest against Owen Sound. “The start is going to be important for us.”
Puck drop at the Harry Lumley Bayshore Community Centre is 7 p.m.
photo: Tyler Tucker scored, but it wasn’t enough as the Barrie Colts playoff hopes took a huge hit with a 6-2 loss to the North Bay Battalion. Terry Wilson/OHL Images