Mark Scheifele's five-point night pushes Barrie past London 6-3 for a 2-1 championship series lead
London Knights goalie Anthony Stolarz goes through his pre-game warmup prior to Game 3 of the Ontario Hockey League final versus the Barrie Colts, Monday at the Barrie Molson Centre. MARK WANZEL PHOTO
Coming into Game 3 on Monday night, one of two things was set to happen.
Either the London Knights would continue their league-dominating ways and win easily, or the Barrie Colts would push back and play well enough to turn the series back in their favour.
The Colts responded to Sunday’s loss with one of its best efforts to date, never trailing en route to a 6-3 win over the Knights at home.
With the win, Barrie now takes a 2-1 lead in the OHL's best-of-seven final.
“It was huge,” said Colts defenceman Jonathan Laser. “We needed to rebound from last night and having a good start was key, so it was good to get out to an early start.”
The star of the show was Mark Scheifele, who had two goals and three assists to give him a league-best 34 points in 18 games this post-season.
Although he’s played with Scheifele for the past two seasons, having that kind of performance in the finals caught even Laser off-guard.
“You never know what amazing (things) you’re going to get from him,” Laser said. “He’s such a good player.
“He’s good every night for us and we can always count on him.”
The opening period in Barrie saw more offence than the first two in London did, but once again resulted in a tie game after 20 minutes.
It only took 35 seconds for the OHL championship’s first-period scoring drought to come to an end, when Mark Scheifele won a draw back to Zach Hall, who corralled the puck before slapping one past Knights starter Anthony Stolarz.
But as is the tendency of a team that gets an early lead, the Colts would let up, and they paid for it.
Alex Broadhurst took a pass near the slot and faked a shot, drawing the defencemen towards him.
Broadhurst then sent a pass across to Ryan Rupert, waiting on the right side of the goal, and he beat Colts goalie Mathias Niederberger to tie the game at 1-1.
Barrie’s top line, which had faced Bo Horvat’s unit and Scott Harrington for most of the time in London, had an opportunity to get away from the shutdown Knights, and that undoubtedly helped its production on Monday.
Anthony Camara chased Olli Maatta behind the London net and forced a turnover from the big Finnish defenceman.
Camara would turn that into an attempt in front that was stopped by Stolarz, but Scheifele was waiting at the right side of the goal to deposit the rebound, giving Barrie a 2-1 lead.
“I think (getting the last change) plays a little bit of a factor, but we have guys that can play against anyone,” Laser said. “We have confidence in our guys, no matter who they play against.”
The advantage wouldn’t last, as the Colts would up in penalty trouble, as they did in Game 2.
With Camara off for a hook behind the Knights net and Erik Bradford in the box for clearing the puck out of play, Maatta would strike, wiring a shot from just beyond the top of the faceoff circle that beat a screened Niederberger.
London’s marker, just 11 seconds into its 5-on-3 advantage, evened the game at 2-2 after one period.
“(We wanted to) stick to what we were doing,” Laser said. “I thought we were playing well, and as long as we keep our structure and are sound defensively, we would get our offensive chances.”
The Colts only got seven shots on goal in the second, but would have been advised to put more on net, given the way they took the lead.
With Tommy Hughes in the penalty box for hauling Josh MacDonald down on a breakaway, Scheifele got the puck to Hall, standing on the goal line, well off to the left of the net.
Hall took the pass, turned and fired from a bad angle, banking the puck off of Stolarz and in, putting Barrie up, 3-2.
“We knew we had to get pucks on Stolarz, and we really buckled down and we decided to shoot from everywhere,” Scheifele said. “Tonight, we did a really good job of that.”
The Colts killed off its only penalty of the frame but appeared to lose a man shortly after, as Mitchell Theoret went to the dressing room after suffering a torso injury and did not return.
London ramped up the pressure in and around the goal, with recently-inserted Paxton Leroux causing a size mismatch against Barrie’s smaller defencemen.
But Niederberger looked better than he had in the first period, making 10 stops to maintain Barrie’s 3-2 advantage after 40 minutes.
A one-goal lead is precarious at the best of times, so the Colts were happy to build their cushion.
Just 1:40 into the third, Scheifele circled off of a check from Nikita Zadorov and sent a pass to Alex Lepkowski, who blasted a puck past a screened Stolarz to make it 4-2 Colts.
“With any goalie, you just want to get shots, wear him down a little,” Laser said. “He’s been good all series and we needed to get traffic in front of him.”
Barrie continued to hold its ground, but with London getting a power play with just over five minutes to go, it chose to pull the goalie, making for a 6-on-4 situation.
That paid off for the Knights, as Seth Griffith took a pass and beat Niederberger from the front of the net to make it a 4-3 game.
Back at just a one-goal lead, it was an opportunity for another Colt to step up.
Andreas Athanasiou, who has been having an excellent series against his former club, was happy to oblige.
His speed and quick stick chipped the puck beyond a London defender, before sending a pass to Steven Beyers, who was all alone on the right side.
Beyers, in turn, put the puck in front of the goal, where Athanasiou deflected it past Stolarz to give Barrie a 5-3 lead and pick up his third goal of the finals.
“We can’t rely just on (Scheifele’s line),” Laser said. “We have a whole lineup that can produce, and we have a whole lineup that can do their part and do their role.”
Scheifele would round out the scoring with an empty-net marker after Beyers took the puck off of a Knights defenceman and fed the Jets prospect, who had a clear path to the goal for his fifth point of the night.
“He’s one of our leaders and (Scheifele) is an unbelievable player,” Laser said.
The Colts will have to be ready for London’s attack in Game 4 on Wednesday night at the Barrie Molson Centre, as the Knights will undoubtedly treat it as a must-win contest.
“I think we can’t get ahead of ourselves,” Laser said. “We just have to rest up and make sure we’re prepared on Wednesday to get off to another good start.”
Newly acquainted - The Barrie Colts and London Knights are meeting for the first time in the playoffs in franchise history. Despite only beginning play in 1995, the Colts were the first of the two teams to win an OHL title, doing so in 2000. Since then, London has won championships in 2005 and 2012.
Not dressed for tonight’s game: Barrie was without the services of Devon Rymarchuk, Jake Dotchin (suspension), Justin Scott and C.J. Garcia. London did not dress Miles Liberati, Corey Pawley, Owen MacDonald, Matt Rupert or Jacob Jammes.
Colts catch a break - Barrie had its full offensive lineup for Game 3 as Anthony Camara avoided suspension for his Game 2 hit on Max Domi. Camara, who has missed four games in these playoffs thanks to two separate sentences, was given a five-minute major penalty and a game misconduct on the play.
League leader - Mark Scheifele came in to Monday night leading the OHL with 29 points in 17 playoff games. Put together with his 79 points in 45 regular-season contests, Scheifele has 108 points in 62 games this year, one less point (in one less game) than Vincent Trocheck won the regular-season scoring crown with. After Monday’s five-goal performance, Scheifele now has 113 points between the regular and post-season combined.
COLTS ON THE SCORE SHEET:
Mark Scheifele: 2G, 3A
Zach Hall: 2G, 1A
Steven Beyers: 2A
Alex Lepkowski: 1G
Andreas Athanasiou: 1G
Ryan O’Connor: 1A
Tyson Fawcett: 1A
Anthony Camara: 1A
Mathias Niederberger: 29 saves
How the Ontario Hockey League final shapes up:
Game 1 - Barrie 4 @ London 2
Game 2 - Barrie 1 @ London 4
Game 3 – London 3 @ Barrie 6
Game 4 - London @ Barrie, Wednesday May 8, 7:30 p.m.
Game 5 - Barrie @ London, Friday, May 10, 7:05 p.m.
Game 6 - London @ Barrie, Saturday, May 11, 7:30 p.m.
Game 7 - Barrie @ London, Monday, May 13, 7:05 p.m.