Colts beat Belleville 3-1 to win Bobby Orr Trophy as Eastern Conference champs, advance to play Knights in OHL finals
Game 7 action in OHL Eastern Conference finals between Belleville Bulls (black jerseys) and Barrie Colts at Yardmen Arena in Belleville, Ont. Monday, April 29, 2013. Barrie makes it to the OHL finals in London, Ont. with a 3-1 win over Belleville. JEROME LESSARD/The Intelligencer/QMI Agency
It came down to a difficult situation.
Win a Game 7, on the road, when things hadn’t been going your way.
But the Barrie Colts found a way to dig deep and pull out the franchise’s biggest win in three years, defeating the Belleville Bulls 3-1 on Monday to win the Eastern Conference Final 4-3.
“A lot of these guys haven’t won one before,” said Colts forward Tyson Fawcett. “We’re going to the finals now and it feels amazing.
“It was a little closer (than we would have liked), but we’ll take it any way we can get it.”
The victory was Barrie’s first Game 7 win since it took home its only OHL championship, defeating Plymouth in 2000, also on the road.
“A win like this is huge, and it gets our confidence up,” Fawcett said. “Winning in other teams’ buildings is an obstacle we’ve had to overcome this year, and we did a good job of it here tonight.”
The Bulls came out full of energy and dominated the opening period’s first half.
Stephen Silas found Austen Brassard at the opposite side of the goal and the winger one-timed a quick attempt, but Colts starter Mathias Niederberger went post-to-post to rob the Bulls forward.
“He weathered the storm for us early on,” Fawcett said. “He was incredible tonight.”
Belleville had the first 12 shots of the game, and that was helped, in part, by a pair of early power plays.
Joseph Cramarossa carried the puck into the offensive zone and tried a move on Aaron Ekblad, but the Colts defenceman swatted the puck off of the overager’s stick.
But Cramarossa fell anyways, and despite there being no clear stick-to-player contact, Ekblad was given a tripping penalty.
“We just had to stick the game plan, not get on our refs and keep our emotions in check,” Fawcett said. “I think we did that tonight.”
On that man advantage, Jake Worrad stepped into a point shot that Alan Quine, standing in front of the goal, deflected past the arm of Niederberger, giving Belleville a 1-0 lead.
The Colts would weather the rest of the storm and, slowly but surely, would get their offence going.
Barrie’s top line, featuring the re-instated Anthony Camara, Mark Scheifele, and injury returnee Zach Hall, was slow to get going, but they would connect on a rush to tie the game.
Scheifele passed to Hall, with both on the right side of the ice, and the Belleville native waited before coolly sending a feed to Ekblad, who was streaking in towards the high slot.
Ekblad wired a low shot that beat Bulls goalie Malcolm Subban cleanly, tying the game at 1-1 after a period.
As the second period wore on, things began to look like a track meet, as both teams opened up their play.
That didn’t deter any physicality, which reached a peak after Carter Sandlak rammed Michael Webster into the boards with a high check.
Sandlak went to the box, and the Colts power play went to work.
In the waning moments of the minor penalty, Ryan O’Connor took a point shot that Fawcett deflected out of mid-air and past Subban, giving the Colts a 2-1 advantage.
Fawcett’s marker gave Barrie a one-goal lead heading into the third, where it had a partial power play followed soon after by a full one.
“First career (playoff) goal (for me) feels really good,” Fawcett said. “I got a stick on it and I was happy I got it past Subban.”
The Colts came close to scoring twice on it, first when Ekblad hit the post, and then when Subban came across to make a pad save on Scheifele’s one-timed attempt.
But Belleville would get the puck out of the zone just as Tyler Graovac came out of the box, and he was sent in alone on a breakaway.
Niederberger made the stop, but Ekblad slashed Graovac on the way to the net, giving the Bulls a man advantage of their own.
Once again, Barrie’s goalie would come up big, making a couple of half-butterfly saves to kill the penalty.
The game was at a point where one swing either way could change things for good.
And unlike in Game 6, the Colts got their break.
Scheifele won the draw back to Hall, who sent it to O’Connor.
The Colts captain slid over to his left before blasting a shot from the point that beat a screened Subban, giving Barrie a 3-1 cushion.
From then on in, the Colts continued to throw everything they could in front of shots, blocking a number before they could reach Niederberger.
“We were all playing desperate,” Fawcett said. “We wanted to get in front of everything we could.
“The less shots they got through, the better,” Fawcett added. “We would dive in front of those pucks with our teeth if we had to.”
Belleville pulled the goalie with just over a minute and a half to go but couldn’t get much on net.
O’Connor snagged the puck, held it, and then cleared it deep into the Belleville zone as time expired, giving Barrie its first Bobby Orr Trophy since 2010.
“It feels great,” O’Connor said. “Our club really battled (for this).”
The Colts will play the London Knights in the OHL finals, with the first game to be played at Budweiser Gardens on Friday night.
Seventh heaven – Both the Barrie Colts and Belleville Bulls came into Monday sporting identical 2-4 records in Game 7’s in franchise history. Barrie’s only two seventh-game triumphs came in 2000, when it defeated Sudbury and Plymouth en route to a league championship. Belleville won the 1999 finals over London and beat Sudbury in the first round in 1990. But they also won a series in which they lost a Game 7. The Bulls fell 5-1 to Peterborough in Game 7 of the 1986 playoffs, but that evened up the first-to-eight-points series at seven apiece. Belleville took Game 8, 5-2, to move on to the next round.
Not dressed for tonight’s game: Barrie was without the services of Devon Rymarchuk, Jake Dotchin (suspension), Justin Scott and C.J. Garcia. Belleville did not dress Daniel De Sousa, Niki Petti and Scott Simmonds (upper body).
One goes in, one goes out – The Colts got Anthony Camara back from suspension in time for Game 7, but are now without the services of Jake Dotchin, who got a five-game sentence for a boarding penalty that injured Niki Petti in Game 6. Dotchin, who was initially only given a minor penalty on the play, was replaced in the lineup by Alex Yuill.
Scheifele still tops – Despite not getting a point in Game 6, Mark Scheifele still came into Monday’s contest tied for the OHL lead in playoff points with London’s Max Domi at 25. Scheifele’s 17 assists in his first 14 playoff games is good enough for first in the league.
Birthday boy – Colts forward Zach Hall returned to the lineup on Monday. Conveniently enough, it was his 20th birthday, with the contest in Belleville, his home town.
COLTS ON THE SCORE SHEET:
Aaron Ekblad: 1G, 1A
Ryan O’Connor: 1G, 1A
Zach Hall: 2A
Mark Scheifele: 2A
Tyson Fawcett: 1G
Mathias Niederberger: 36 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 1 at Belleville 3
Game 6 – Belleville 3 at Barrie 1
Game 7 – Barrie 3 at Belleville 1