Colts draw first blood
Brampton was hanging around.
Thomas Stajan had just scored short-handed to cut Barrie's lead to 3-2 and briefly suck the life out of the Barrie Molson Centre midway through Game 1 of the second-round playoff series between the Battalion and Colts.
Then came Stefan Della Rovere.
Scooting down the left wing, the 19-year-old Colts captain caught a burst of speed, blew past Battalion defender Cameron Wind, went to his backhand and beat big Patrick Killeen to restore a two-goal Barrie lead.
Barrie took the opener 5-3 in front of 4,207 fans.
Credit the captain with lifting his team like only a captain sometimes can.
"It felt good contributing," the winger said. "They had momentum. They'd just scored a goal. Getting a goal back was huge."
Aside from his momentum-swinging, eventual game-winning goal in the middle period, the two-time world junior medallist duked it out with Brampton's Zach Bell near the end of the game.
Indeed, they call Della Rovere a heart and soul player around these parts.
"I thought he worked awfully hard in practice this week," Barrie head coach Marty Williamson said. "He was one of our leaders (this week)."
Della Rovere was shifted over to Barrie's third line - otherwise known as 1C - just prior to the playoffs, allowing Matt Kennedy to move onto a line with Alexander Burmistrov and Alex Hutchings.
"We just felt Kennedy's speed fit with Burmy and Hutch a little bit better," Williamson said. "This isn't a demotion. It's a coaching decision. We feel that we're a better hockey team set up this way.
"Delly's a class kid," his coach added. "He just wants to contribute and get a solid role."
Della Rovere has embraced the role just as he's embraced any role handed to him through his four seasons in Barrie.
"Last year, I had more of an offensive role," he said. "This year, we made a lot of acquisitions, so it changed into more of a power forward role, with more defensive (responsibilities).
"I think right now, everyone's doing their role to a tee."
Indeed, Barrie's usual suspects and typical balanced attacked were the difference once again, helping the Colts win their fifth straight post-season game, while making any pending negative effects from a week-long playoff layoff a moot point.
Burmistrov, Bryan Cameron and Kyle Clifford had a goal and an assist apiece. Cameron's goal was his team-leading seventh of the playoffs. Taylor Carnevale added a slam-dunk tally on the power play.
Stajan, Sam Carrick and Sean Jones responded for Brampton.
Peter Di Salvo made 37 saves for his fourth playoff win, while Killeen turned aside 37 pucks in the losing cause.
The Battalion, two nights removed from closing out the Kingston Frontenacs in seven games, stormed back for goals in each period on Thursday.
"That teams works. They never quit," Williamson said. "They're going to get a couple days rest, which I think they need.
"But this was a big game for us."
Earlier, the Colts' Alex Pietrangelo was named the league's defenceman of the month. He had a goal and seven assists in the opening round against Sudbury.
The Colts head to Brampton for Game 2 on Sunday at 2 p.m. before returning to the BMC for Game 3 on Monday at 7:30 p.m.