The grin on Dalton Duhart’s face after the game said it all.
Just moments after a 3-2 win over the London Knights, Jan. 17, at the Barrie Molson Centre – which included the Barrie Colts centre potting what proved to be the game winner in his first game against his former teammates – Duhart was still understandably pumped up.
“It was so great,” he said of the win over his former team. “I had a lot of emotions coming in. I was a little excited and a little nervous, too.
“It felt great and it was good to get that one.”
With a young Barrie team ahead 2-1 early in the second period on a pair of Ryan Suzuki markers and looking to surprise the Western Conference-leading Knights, Duhart’s goal would stand to be the difference maker.
Matthew Hill’s shot from the point was stopped by London goalie Joseph Raaymakers, but Duhart was right there to pop in the rebound for his second goal as a Colt.
Chicago Blackhawks prospect Adam Boqvist scored on the power play less than two minutes later to cut the lead to one and the Knights pressed hard over the final two periods, outshooting Barrie 31-16, but they couldn’t come up with the equalizer.
Duhart, who was acquired in a trade deadline deal by Barrie for Joey Keane and draft picks, admits he could hardly keep his emotions in check while watching goaltender Jet Greaves and the Colts kill off a last minute London power play.
“I was going nuts,” the six-foot, 189-pound forward who turns 18 on Jan. 18. “It was crazy, but happy the boys could see it through.”
It was an impressive effort from start to finish for the Colts (19-22-1-0), who came into the night 11 wins and 24 points behind London (29-7-4-1) in the overall standings.
London, which also got a goal from Liam Foudy, had won three straight and was coming off an emotional win over the league-leading Ottawa 67’s.
“For us, I think we really wanted to keep it simple and get shots,” newly-named Colts captain Jason Willms said. “Lately we haven’t got enough shots and still tonight I think we could have got a few more shots, but you can’t fault the effort from us in that room.
“We obviously knew we were playing against one of the top teams in this league and I think we proved to ourselves tonight that we can compete with anyone in this league. This is huge momentum for us going forward.”
Suzuki, a London native, opened the night with a brilliant individual effort a little more than eight minutes in that is certain to find the highlight reels.
Suzuki made a nice move outside to cut around Knights defenceman Riley Coome. He then hit the brakes and cut inside on Keane, before wiring one over the right pad of Raaymakers.
“It’s huge for the boys,” Duhart said of the win. “I think we played good all three periods.”
Making his second-straight start, Greaves delivered another big effort in goal. The rookie made 32 saves, including several big ones in the third to help hold off the Knights.
“You always need your goalie to come up in the biggest moments and I think that was phenomenal tonight,” Willms said of the effort by Greaves.
While the Colts may have looked to the future at this year’s trade deadline, Willms said the focus in the dressing room is still on winning hockey games.
He recalled a year in Junior ‘B’ hockey where they lost to a seventh-seeded team in the playoffs that finished 50 points behind them.
The veteran believes tonight’s effort shows the young team can still be a handful when they put in the effort.
“There is no reason why we can’t be a team that upsets team on any given night, like tonight, and especially going into the playoffs,” he said. “We’re still in the (playoff) picture and going forward if we slide into eighth, seventh or even sixth, I think there’s no reason why we can’t surprise someone and move into the second round.”
The Colts will look to knock off another one of the OHL’s top teams on Jan. 19 when they host the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds.
Game time is 7:30 p.m.
ICE CHIPS: Barrie had a video tribute for Keane before the contest and club owner Howie Campbell presented the former Colt with a gift. . . Tyler Tucker dropped London’s Billy Moskal with a massive right-handed punch in a first-period dustup. . . Chris Cameron delivered a massive hit along the boards that rocked Knights forward Paul Cotter.
photo: Dalton Duhart scored what proved to be the eventual game-winner against his former teammates as the Barrie Colts edged the London Knights, 3-2, at the Barrie Molson Centre. Terry Wilson/OHL Images.