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Willms gets first hat trick, Rhodes first OHL goal in Barrie's 6-1 romp

By Stephen Sweet, Special to Postmedia Network

Colts forward Sam Rhodes celebrates his first-career Ontario Hockey League goal on Saturday night. KEVIN LAMB/PHOTO

Colts forward Sam Rhodes celebrates his first-career Ontario Hockey League goal on Saturday night. KEVIN LAMB/PHOTO

The Barrie Colts were finally back at home.

It looked like they had never left.

The Colts played a strong game almost the entire way through, handily defeating the Niagara IceDogs 6-1 on Saturday.

“I don’t think we got the start that we wanted, but once we got our feet under us, the six unanswered goals speak for themselves,” said Colts forward Jason Willms. “We got a strong F-1 on them and got them to cough up pucks.

“They weren’t always pretty goals, but I think that’s how you win.”

The Colts, playing their first home game in two weeks, would get off on the wrong foot.

During four-on-four action, a pair of Colts gravitated towards Ondrej Machala, who was coming in on the far wing.

That left Bradey Johnson open, and he would snap an attempt through the five-hole of Colts starter Leo Lazarev, making it 1-0 Niagara.

Barrie would get the bulk of the opportunities from then on out in the opening 20 minutes, but without Andrei Svechnikov, Zach Magwood or Ryan Suzuki in the lineup, quality opportunities were tougher to come by.

The Colts offensive issues were compounded when Alexey Lipanov, playing his third game in as many nights, left the ice partway through the first period and didn’t return until the second.

Although he was missing from their power play, the Colts would still get on the board through the man advantage, when Joey Keane’s seeing-eye shot went through a screen and beat Niagara goalie Stephen Dhillon to tie things at 1-1 after a period.

“That was a big goal for us,” said Colts forward Kyle Heitzner, who picked up an assist on the marker. “They started to take penalties, and we were capitalizing on the power play.

“Keaner had a nice shot from the point that got through a screen, and we just built off of that.”

Barrie continued to press forward and it was rewarded early in the second.

Chris Cameron took a shot from the side boards that Willms would deflect under Dhillon’s arm and in, giving the Colts a 2-1 lead.

“It was huge for us,” Willms said. “Momentum is big in this league, and we got down early, but we stuck with it.

“When you keep it simple and do the right things, you get some puck luck sometimes.”

Later, the two teams would wind up playing four-on-four again, but this time, the Colts would be the beneficiary.

Some excellent puck movement by both defencemen got it down low for Heitzner, and he sent a pass to Sam Rhodes in front.

The rookie did not hesitate, one-timing a shot past Dhillon to give the Colts a 3-1 lead.

For Rhodes, who was originally credited with a marker at the tail end of the contest against Hamilton in late October (that would later be given to Jaden Peca), this would be his first-career Ontario Hockey League goal.

At the other end, Lazarev was sharp, turning aside Johnny Corneil on a breakaway before denying Akil Thomas on the rebound.

“He’s great and I can’t say enough good things about him,” Heitzner said of his goalie. “He’s come in here and made the most of his opportunity.

“He’s been huge for us and hopefully, he can keep it going.”

Lazarev also took a charge from Ben Jones at the end of the second, giving Barrie a two-man advantage to start the third.

The Colts would make it count, as they won the opening faceoff and never lost possession, finishing things off when Ben Hawerchuk rifled home his second goal in as many nights to make it 4-1 Barrie.

“(Head coach) Dale (Hawerchuk) said it best in the room,” Heitzner said. “We’re the most penalized team in the league and tonight, we were disciplined.

“If you can stay disciplined like that, you’ll have a lot of success going forward.”

Willms would get his second of the night when Dhillon couldn’t cover a puck at the side of the goal and the centre would drive it across the line.

Just a few minutes later, Willms completed his first OHL hat trick, taking a cross-ice feed from Kirill Nizhnikov and burying it to extend Barrie’s cushion to 6-1.

“We had a strong F-1 all night and Peca had a strong forecheck and got the puck to me and I tucked it home,” said Willms of the first of his two goals in 2:21. “The other one was a great pass from Nizhnikov and I was fortunate enough to hammer it home.”

Barrie’s next contest is at home on Thursday against Sudbury.

Jason Willms: 3G
Joey Keane: 1G, 1A
Kyle Heitzner: 2A
Kirill Nizhnikov: 2A
Ben Hawerchuk: 1G
Sam Rhodes: 1G (first-career OHL goal)
Chris Cameron: 1A
Kade Landry: 1A
Lucas Chiodo: 1A
Justin Murray: 1A
Jaden Peca: 1A
Nate Allensen: 1A
Leo Lazarev: 26 saves

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