Lemieux's goal gives Barrie a 4-3 overtime win over Belleville and a 3-1 series lead
Barrie Colts forward Tyson Fawcett and Adam Bignell of the Belleville Bulls tangle during Game 4 of the Ontario Hockey League Eastern Conference final, Wednesday at the Barrie Molson Centre. MARK WANZEL BARRIE EXAMINER
It was another close call.
And with the top two lines getting a rest, the checking unit gave the Barrie Colts the goal they needed.
Brendan Lemieux scored his first career playoff goal 5:26 into the first overtime, as the Colts defeated the Belleville Bulls 4-3 on Wednesday night.
“Every game is a battle, and when you get this far in the playoffs, you have to work for every inch,” said Colts head coach Dale Hawerchuk. “The two games in Barrie were darn good hockey games.
“You just try to do your best for as long as we go and I think we got a good result.”
Michael Webster started things off by making a smart play at the blue line to keep the puck in, firing it down low to Erik Bradford.
Neither Bradford nor Tyson Fawcett could put a chance past Bulls goalie Malcolm Subban, but they got the puck back into the high slot, where Lemieux was standing.
The rookie turned and fired a shot that appeared to deflect high, beating Subban and giving the Colts a 3-1 Eastern Conference Final series lead.
“That was my first of the playoffs and a really good play by my linemates,” Lemieux said. “I was pretty tired, but was really happy (about the goal).”
For the second time in as many games, the Colts would give up the first goal, but come away with the lead before the opening period was out.
It was Belleville's third line that put it on the board.
Michael Curtis and Aaron Berisha got the puck into the offensive zone before clearing the way for Garrett Hooey, who snapped a wrist shot past Barrie starter Mathias Niederberger.
The Colts weren't fazed by the deficit, and the top line went out shortly after to even up the score.
Anthony Camara came in wide on the left side before throwing a harmless-looking attempt towards the goal.
Subban made the stop, but left the rebound sitting on the doorstep, where Mark Scheifele quickly came in and knocked it home.
Belleville would come back the other way, but Niederberger snared a Jake Worrad attempt to keep the Bulls from pulling ahead.
Barrie would get a power play when Hooey was called for an iffy checking to the head penalty, and the Colts used the man advantage to pull ahead.
With Zach Hall and Camara working the puck on the right side, Aaron Ekblad snuck in, unnoticed, on the left.
One sharp pass later, and Barrie took a 2-1 lead.
“We had a good effort both ways,” Hawerchuk said. “They had us running around some of the time, but we had them running around some of the time, too.”
Belleville would get a make-up call moments after, and its power play would carry into the second period.
Niederberger made a great stop on Tyler Graovac at the tail end of it, getting across to take away a strong opportunity.
Meanwhile, Andreas Athanasiou was looking to get some revenge on Jordan Subban, who had hit him with head checks in both Games 2 and 3.
The pair dropped the gloves for a spirited affair, but it seemed like Belleville got the initial jump after the tussle.
The Bulls would tie the score at 2-2 after an extended session in the Barrie zone.
Shortly after Stephen Silas hit the post, Austen Brassard found Brendan Gaunce from behind the net, and the captain beat Niederberger through the five-hole.
“Our first period might’ve been the worst one (we’ve had) since Christmas, but we got better as the game went on,” said Bulls coach George Burnett.
The Colts had a couple of opportunities to pull ahead in the second, but the goaltending Subban may have played his best period of the series.
He robbed Hall on a cross-crease pass before sticking with Athanasiou on a break and turning him aside with the blocker, keeping things even after 40 minutes.
But there was nothing Subban could do about Barrie’s third goal.
Just 52 seconds into the third period, Jonathan Laser took a point shot that Hall appeared to deflect.
Although Subban got a piece of it, he had already committed too far and couldn’t keep the puck out, giving Barrie a 3-2 advantage.
The Bulls had to open up a little more and got an unspectacular goal themselves to make things all square once again.
Daniil Zharkov came in between the faceoff dots and dropped a pass to Alan Quine, who beat Niederberger on the glove side to tie the game at 3-3 – one the Barrie goalie probably would’ve liked back.
“There was going to be momentum shifts, but we’ve dealt with that all year,” Hawerchuk said. “There’s time where we lose it and times when we have it.
“If we lose it, we want to get it back quickly.”
Unlike on Monday, when a tied game in the third period meant waiting for overtime, the two teams pushed the pace, trying to win it in regulation.
Bradford had a chance late in the period, but his shot was blocked.
Carter Sandlak was quick on the puck, but he fired the rebound out of play, giving Barrie a power play with 2:03 left in the third.
The Colts tried to load up bodies in front of the goal, but Subban made a couple of nice saves through traffic to kill the penalty, sending the game to overtime.
Belleville nearly won the game about a minute in, when Joseph Cramarossa carried the puck around the net and set up Zharkov for a one-timer on the other side.
But Niederberger went post-to-post and nabbed the puck, robbing the Bulls’ import forward.
“Bergy made a huge save for us there in overtime,” Hawerchuk said.
Lemieux had a chance as well on a one-timer attempt, but was denied by Subban, at least for the time being.
Barrie’s rookie would get his revenge, scoring the winner and pushing Belleville to the brink.
“The mistakes we made tonight were big, and they’re the kind of team that capitalizes on those kinds of mistakes,” Burnett said.
“We’re going home Friday night, and we have every expectation to be back here on Saturday night.”
The Colts will also get a boost, as Ryan O’Connor makes his much-anticipated return to the Barrie lineup on Friday, playing for the first time since March 23.
“It’s been a long time for Ryan,” “He’s our captain, an overage player, and he’s been a big part of our team all year.
“He’ll be excited to get back, for sure.”
Game 5 goes Friday from Belleville at 7:05 p.m. If the Bulls win, Game 6 would be played on Saturday night in Barrie.
The nominees are - Both Barrie's Mathias Niederberger and Belleville's Malcolm Subban are up for the OHL Goalie of the Year award, which will be handed out on Thursday. The other nominated goalies are Kitchener's John Gibson, Jordan Binnington of the Attack, Brampton's Matej Machovsky and Spirit netminder Jake Paterson.
Not dressed for tonight’s game: Barrie was without the services of Ryan O’Connor (suspension), C.J. Garcia, Justin Scott and Devon Rymarchuk. Belleville did not dress Michael Cramarossa, Daniel De Sousa and Scott Simmonds (upper body).
Free O'Connor - Colts captain Ryan O'Connor served the final game of his 10-game suspension on Wednesday night. O'Connor received his sentence following his check on Kingston's Spencer Watson on March 23. When he returns to the lineup Friday, it will have been almost five weeks between games for O'Connor.
In the other corner - London and Plymouth also played Game 4 tonight in their Western Conference Final. The Knights pulled ahead 3-1 in that series with a 6-4 win in Michigan tonight, thanks to a pair of goals from both Alex Broadhurst and Seth Griffith. London will try and wrap up the West at home on Friday night.
COLTS ON THE SCORE SHEET:
Zach Hall: 1G, 2A
Mark Scheifele: 1G, 1A
Anthony Camara: 2A
Brendan Lemieux: 1G (overtime winner, first career playoff goal)
Aaron Ekblad: 1G
Erik Bradford: 1A
Michael Webster: 1A
Jonathan Laser: 1A
Mathias Niederberger: 25 saves
How the Eastern Conference final shapes up:
Game 1 – Barrie 2 at Belleville 3
Game 2 – Barrie 5 at Belleville 0
Game 3 – Belleville 4 at Barrie 5 (O/T)
Game 4 – Belleville 3 at Barrie 4 (O/T)
Game 5 – Barrie at Belleville, Friday, April 26, 7:05 p.m.
Game 6 – Belleville at Barrie, Saturday, April 27, 7:30 p.m.
Game 7 – Barrie at Belleville, Monday, April 29, 7:05 p.m.