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BRAMPTON, Ont. – It appears there’s no respite for the Brampton Battalion.
The Battalion, which has righted itself somewhat with two wins and an overtime loss in its last three Ontario Hockey League games, opens a home-and-home series with the streaking Barrie Colts at 2 p.m. Sunday at the Powerade Centre.
“They’re one of the hottest teams in the league,” Battalion coach Stan Butler said of the Colts, winners of eight straight. “We know they’re going to be tough, so it’s going to be a good test for us.”
Barrie, which was to host the London Knights on Saturday night, boasts a won-lost-extended record of 9-2-0 for 18 points, first in the Central Division and Eastern Conference. The Colts, who entertain the Troops on Thursday night in the return engagement, last lost Sept. 23, by a 3-2 count to the host Mississauga Steelheads.
“We know they’re going to come in and bring their A game,” said Battalion right winger Matt MacLeod. “We’re going to have to play a full 60-minute game to keep with them.”
Centre Mark Scheifele leads Barrie with seven goals and 12 assists for 19 points in 11 games, while centre Zach Hall has six goals and 12 assists for 18 points in 10 games. Left winger Anthony Camara has scored a team-high 10 goals and added six assists for 16 points in 11 games, and left winger Andreas Athanasiou shows six goals and eight assists for 14 points in 11 games.
Scheifele had three goals and three assists in a 7-3 victory Thursday night over the visiting Ottawa 67’s to assume the OHL scoring lead. Hall contributed two goals and four assists and Camara one goal and three assists.
“They’re red-hot right now,” noted Battalion goaltender Jake Smith, who earned his first OHL victory with 19 saves in a 4-1 home-ice decision Friday night over the Windsor Spitfires.
“They’ve put together a winning streak but, if we play like we did against Windsor and put together three solid periods, we should have success.”
Smith helped the Battalion move its record to 4-4-4 for 12 points, tied for fourth place in the division. It was his third OHL appearance and second start, after a 5-1 setback Oct. 5 to the host Erie Otters.
“I’m really happy for Jake Smith,” said Butler. “He bounced back after a tough outing against Erie for a great performance against Windsor.”
Added MacLeod: “Smith was unbelievable for us. He’s proven himself since he got here in camp, and he works really hard. It’s too bad the one goal got by him late so he didn’t get the shutout.”
Said Smith: “It’s unreal after the first two outings. I didn’t have the best start against Erie, but coming back home and getting the first win is an unbelievable feeling.”
Smith denied Kerby Rychel at the lip of the crease to preserve a 1-0 first-period lead after Jamie Lewis opened the scoring, and Barclay Goodrow doubled the advantage moments later.
“They have a couple of guys on Windsor who can really shoot the puck, but I got more and more confident in the game with each save,” said Smith. “I made the save on Rychel, and it seemed to spark our guys. They really supported me offensively.”
A bad bounce off a stanchion with two minutes left in the second period almost fooled the rookie goaltender. Leaving the net to play the puck, he saw it deflect off the stanchion and toward the open cage.
“It was going along the boards and popped out,” said Smith. “I dove back to do anything I could to keep the puck out.”