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BRAMPTON, Ont. – The Brampton Battalion and Belleville Bulls are getting rather familiar with each other early in the Ontario Hockey League season. Whether that familiarity breeds respect or contempt is yet to be seen.
Belleville visits the Battalion at the Powerade Centre at 7:30 p.m. Friday for the teams’ second meeting in three nights and third in 15 days.
“It’s a good thing to have to play a team like that as many times as we do this early,” said Battalion coach Stan Butler, who saw the Bulls rally to a 2-1 victory via shootout Wednesday night at Belleville. “They push you to the limit and make you better, and that’s what we need right now.”
Brenden Miller, scoring in a second straight game, posted the Battalion to a 1-0 lead on a power play at 13:29 of the first period, but Brendan Gaunce tied it at 18:42 of the third and Jordan Subban netted the decisive goal in the shootout, in which the home side outscored the Troops 3-2.
Battalion goaltender Matej Machovsky, who made 34 saves through overtime, turned in a solid bounce-back performance after enduring a difficult outing in a 4-3 overtime loss at home to the Mississauga Steelheads on Monday.
“Machovsky played great, especially in that third period,” said Butler. “He gave us the chance to win the game, which is what you need from your goaltender. It was great to see him rebound.”
The Battalion figures to have right winger Matt MacLeod in uniform Friday night for the first time since he suffered a high-ankle sprain in a 1-0 win over the visiting Bulls on Sept. 28.
“If MacLeod has a good practice on Thursday, he’ll be in the lineup on Friday,” said Butler. “Matt’s a fourth-year player who brings experience and a big, strong body into our lineup that makes us more physical.”
The return of MacLeod would leave only defenceman Marcus McIvor in the infirmary, as Connor Jarvis took to the ice at Belleville for his first action of the season, playing centre between Blake Clarke and Mike Amadio. Jarvis, who broke a collarbone in the preseason, dressed against Mississauga but left after the first period without taking a shift.
“I thought Jarvis had a really good game,” noted Butler. “He brought a lot of energy to the team for his first game back.”
The line of centre Nicholas Foglia, left winger Derek Froats and right winger Brendan Childerley, who was claimed on waivers from the Owen Sound Attack last Friday, also has provided vitality. The trio has forechecked well, creating offensive chances, and provided a physical style of play.
“They’ve been great for us,” said Butler. “That line has been really effective in the last two games. They make each other better players and bring a lot of energy to our bench.”
Left winger Clarke, a first-round pick in the 2012 OHL Priority Selection, assisted on defenceman Miller’s goal at Belleville. It was Clarke’s third point in three games and fifth of the season.
“We knew that Blake is going to be a great player,” said Butler. “We had him shoot first on (Malcolm) Subban in the shootout, and he went in and scored on one of the best junior-aged goaltenders in the world. He's got the confidence right now.”
With McIvor sidelined with a sore back, rearguard Kyle Wood, a third-round pick this year, was summoned this week from the affiliated junior A Orangeville Flyers.
“Wood played a great game on a bigger surface,” said Butler. “He held his own against a team that has a lot of veteran experience with 19 returning players. He’s going to get ice time, and it’s only going to keep making him a better player.”