Pretty goal or not, it doesn’t matter one bit to Jason Willms. What does is that his overtime winner on a shot from a bad angle helped give the Barrie Colts a 6-5 win over the Kingston Frontenacs in the opening game of their best-of-seven OHL Eastern Conference Semi-Final Series, April 4, at the Barrie Molson Centre.
“Going into overtime, we really stressed that we wanted to put pucks on net and keep it simple,” said Willms, who scored twice and added an assist to earn first-star honours in the game. “In playoffs, it’s not always the pretty goals. It’s the greasy goals that all add up and eventually help you win a series, win games.”
It didn’t take long for Willms to deal the decisive blow, scoring just 1:58 into the extra period. Ben Hawerchuk stripped the puck away from Matt Hotchkiss along the boards and shoveled it ahead to Willms in the corner. The Barrie forward, who was standing behind the goal line, immediately fired the puck toward Kingston’s Jeremy Helvig and it hit side of the goaltender’s left pad and went in.
“We watched some video and we knew that putting pucks on net from some sharp angles would work out and I was fortunate enough that it banked off his leg and it just went in,” said Willms, who along with his teammates will look to go up 2-0 in the series when Barrie hosts Kingston on April 6.
In a see-saw battle where neither team took a two-goal lead, the opener turned out to be much of what was expected from these two evenly-matched clubs.
“If tonight was any indication, it’s going to be a good series,” Willms said. “It was back and forth in the second and third and I think the whole way we were basically neck and neck.”
Facing one of the OHL’s top goaltenders in Helvig, the Colts wanted to get pucks to the net and they did exactly that. Barrie outshot Kingston, 45-28, including 18-6 in the second period.
“(Helvig’s) a really good goalie and I think for us it’s not getting too cute,” Willms said. “We’ve got a lot of skill up front on this team and I think when we’re at our best is when we’re putting the puck at the net and driving the net. Personally, that’s where I have most of my success.”
That’s what helped put Barrie back on top early in the third. A little more than two minutes after Jakob Brahaney’s point blast, on the power play, tied the game at four goals apiece, Willms put the Colts back ahead when he went to the front of the net and fired a tipped pass by Ryan Suzuki over Helvig’s right pad.
Jason Robertson, off a beauty back-handed pass from Gabriel Vilardi, tied the contest midway through the third. That set up Willms to be the hero on this night.
“We stuck with it tonight,” the 18-year-old centre said. “We didn’t get down on ourselves. Everyone was positive on our bench and I think that was the key going into overtime.”
Aaron Luchuk, Dmitry Sokolov and Suzuki each had a goal and assist for the Colts, who also got another marker from Jaden Peca. Justin Pringle, Lynus Nyman and Hotchkiss had the other Kingston goals.
ICE CHIPS: The OHL announced who is up for the league’s biggest awards and the Colts are well represented among the nominees. Luchuk is up for three awards, including the Red Tilson Trophy as the most outstanding player. He has also been nominated for the Overage Player of the Year and the Most Sportsmanlike Player of the Year. Andrei Svechnikov is a nominee for the Rookie of the Year, while Joey Keane is among the six finalists for Defenceman of the Year. Dale Hawerchuk has been nominated for Coach of the Year.
Photo: Jason Willms scored from a bad angle less than two minutes into overtime to give the Barrie Colts a 6-5 win over the Kingston Frontenacs in the opening game of their best-of-seven Eastern Conference semifinal series, April 4, at the Barrie Molson Centre. Terry Wilson/OHL Images photo.