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BRAMPTON, Ont. – Things appear to be looking up for the Brampton Battalion.
The Battalion, having snapped a four-game Ontario Hockey League losing streak, has three wins and an overtime loss in its last four games after a 4-1 victory Sunday over the Barrie Colts. The Troops, who complete a home-and-home set at Barrie on Thursday night, won a second consecutive game for the first time this season and moved into third place in the Central Division.
The Colts, who had won eight straight before a 3-2 loss via shootout Saturday night to the visiting London Knights, suffered their first regulation-time defeat since a 3-2 setback Sept. 23 to the host Mississauga Steelheads.
“We knew Barrie was the top team in the Eastern Conference heading into the game,” said Battalion left winger Blake Clarke, who contributed one goal and two assists. “They have a great power play that has some of the leading scorers in the league so far. I think we did a great job shutting them down.
“We faced some adversity right away when they scored an early power-play goal, but we really battled back to get a 3-1 lead after the first period. I thought it was a great all-round effort.”
Aaron Ekblad gave Barrie the lead 1:49 into the game, but the Troops rallied, getting their first two goals 15 seconds apart from Derek Froats and Jamie Lewis.
“We didn’t let it get us down like we have in the past,” said Clarke. “We went back out there and worked even harder than we had been, and it worked out well for us.”
Said goaltender Matej Machovsky: “Our goal was to shut them down, frustrate them and make them angry. I think we did all of those things well.”
After the Ekblad goal, Machovsky denied the Colts the rest of the way, making a total of 24 saves and reducing his goals-against average to a league-leading 2.02.
“That first goal was a bad bounce,” said Machovsky. “I think it went off something in front and got through me. The boys bounced back after the goal. It was a great team win.”
Clarke, who has four goals and six assists for 10 points in 13 games, is tied for third place in rookie scoring with Sergey Tolchinsky of the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds. His four goals tie Clarke with teammate Mathew Santos and the Sarnia Sting’s Nikolay Goldobin for third place among rookies.
“It was a big night for me and huge for my confidence, that’s for sure,” said Clarke, who jumped ahead of Barclay Goodrow for top spot in Battalion scoring.
“There are areas in Blake’s game that he’s got some work to do, but offensively he’s developing into a pretty good player,” said coach Stan Butler.
A first-round pick in the OHL Priority Selection last April, Clarke has played the last two games on a line with centre Lewis and right winger Matt MacLeod.
“I really like playing with Lewis and MacLeod,” said Clarke, a resident of Wildwood, Mo. “I think we’ve been doing a pretty good job so far and we’ve got some chemistry.”
Noted Butler, who shook up the forward units considerably before a 4-1 home-ice win Friday night over the Windsor Spitfires: “That line is playing really well for us right now.”