Niederberger's 49-save performance steals Barrie a 4-2 win over Kingston
Kingston Frontenacs defenceman Warren Steele is pursued by Barrie Colts forward Mark Scheifele during first-period Ontario Hockey League action Thursday at the Barrie Molson Centre. MARK WANZEL PHOTO
Sometimes, it isn’t the team that plays the most complete game that wins.
A hot goaltender and some timely scoring were the difference for the Barrie Colts on Thursday night, as they knocked off the Kingston Frontenacs 4-2.
The win moves Barrie to within two points of conference-leading Belleville, with both teams still having two games left to play.
“(Mathias) Niederberger kind of got us the two points tonight,” said Colts head coach Dale Hawerchuk. “We, for some reason, just weren’t on our game right from the bat.
“We sound repetitive, but we need to keep drilling into these guys what we need to do and our structure.”
It was a disappointing result for Kingston, which controlled most of the game, but had no points to show for it.
“We’ve been doing that a lot this year, and we’re getting this kind of outcome, which is unfortunate,” said Frontenacs head coach Todd Gill. “Their goalie stood on his head.
“I hope he got first star, because he deserves it.”
There was one team that was fighting for its playoff life Thursday, and not surprisingly, it was the one playing with more desperation.
Kingston tested Niederberger early and often, but the Colts overager looked very sharp in the first period, turning aside all 19 shots he faced.
He made back-to-back saves on Ryan Kujawinski and Michael Moffat, coming out in the butterfly to stop the latter.
Niederberger was moving around his crease very well, pushing off of the left post a few minutes later to cut off the angle and squeeze the pads on a Cody Alcock attempt.
Barrie didn’t get its first shot until over seven minutes into the first, and other than some power-play snapshots by Mark Scheifele, failed to really test Kingston goalie Mike Morrison in the opening frame.
Kingston started up with more of the same in the second, and nearly scored when they tried to slip one between Niederberger and the post.
But the puck, sliding across the goal line, was swept aside by Scheifele to keep the game scoreless.
Niederberger continued his solid play, robbing Henri Ikonen on a two-on-one attempt when it looked all but certain that the Finn would be able to one-time a pass into the net.
“Bergy sees the puck well,” said Hawerchuk of his goaltender, who made 49 saves tonight. “You could tell he was seeing the puck well and letting it come to him.
“When he’s in the zone, you have to make a great shot to beat him.”
Barrie was having trouble clearing the zone at times, which added to the already inflated shot totals.
“Sometimes, guys try to do a little too much when they’re under pressure,” Hawerchuk said. “We talk about putting the puck in certain areas and letting the next teammate handle that.
“They have to be ready when they’re in that area, though,” Hawerchuk added. “Sometimes, the winger’s sleeping and the point man is pinching by him, and there’s no excuse for that.”
The Colts would finally get some offence for their netminder on a brief man advantage.
Moments after Tyson Fawcett stepped out of the box to give Barrie a 5-on-4, Steven Beyers wristed a shot from the point that beat Morrison cleanly to give the Colts a 1-0 lead.
18 seconds later, Josh MacDonald sent Zach Hall in alone on a breakaway.
Hall cut across the middle, getting Morrison to follow, before coolly lifting one over the goalie’s left shoulder to double Barrie’s advantage.
The end of the second period saw things get a little rougher, and with 28 seconds to go in the period, three players were assessed minor penalties, including Aaron Ekblad.
But no one informed the Barrie blueliner or the Colts bench that Ekblad should have been in the box, and he played the last 28 seconds of the period, helping create a scoring chance.
“We mentioned that to the referee,” said Gill, who had a captain go over to the officials just as the intermission began. “It was a mistake, and I’m just glad they didn’t score a goal.”
The third period saw more of the same from Niederberger, who looked almost unbeatable on Thursday night.
He moved effortlessly and efficiently, pushing across the crease to stymie Warren Steele on a one-timed attempt.
It would finally take a muffed effort in order to fool Niederberger and get the Frontenacs on the board.
Marc Beckstead sent a pass from the corner to Darcy Greenaway, and Niederberger, having read the play, was well on his way over to the left side of the goal.
But Greenaway fanned on the shot, causing it to float over Niederberger’s shoulder and in.
Kingston wouldn’t be able to keep it a one-goal game for long, as Brendan Lemieux took the puck from an offensive zone faceoff and fired a shot through Morrison to give Barrie a 3-1 lead.
Just over a minute later, O’Connor checked his man shortly after the Frontenacs player pushed the puck into the offensive zone. The Colts captain was called for interference, and to compound matters, Alex Lepkowski was assessed an additional roughing penalty.
Kingston would make the most of its 5-on-3 situation, when Billy Jenkins completed a tic-tac-toe play from Warren Steele and Mikko Vainonen, blasting the puck off of Niederberger’s arm and in.
The Frontenacs continued to push hard, and had a puck not rolled off of a stick in front of the Barrie net, they might have tied the game.
“Our kids played hard and they just couldn’t get that equalizer,” Gill said. “It is what it is.”
Scheifele would get the puck out and carry it towards the Kingston net before being hauled down.
Originally, a penalty shot was awarded, but since the Frontenacs had already pulled the goalie, it became an automatic goal, sealing the 4-2 victory.
Kingston will be playing for its playoff life tomorrow, when they host the Peterborough Petes.
“I told them that that’s the most positive thing you can do before a big game, to play like we did (tonight),” Gill said. “If we play like that against Peterborough and Ottawa, we win.
“It’s a must-win or we’re out of the playoffs.”
Barrie’s next contest is in Brampton on Friday, where they have struggled this season. The Colts return home for their season finale on Saturday against Niagara.
COLTS ON THE SCORE SHEET:
Zach Hall: 1G
Steven Beyers: 1G
Brendan Lemieux: 1G
Mark Scheifele: 1G
Ryan O’Connor: 1A
Josh MacDonald: 1A
Tyson Fawcett: 1A
Andreas Athanasiou: 1A
Mathias Niederberger: 49 saves