March 20, 2014
Seventeen-year-old goalie Mackenzie Blackwood made 29 saves and fellow first-year player Kevin Labanc had two points to help Barrie hold off Sudbury during the OHL's 'soft opening' to the playoffs:
Barrie 3 Sudbury 2 (Colts lead series 1-0, host Game 2 on Saturday) — How vital was Barrie's supporting cast? The Colts' leading scorer Andreas Athanasiou (49 goals, 95 points) was relatively quiet, but Labanc (1G-1A, +2) picked up the slack to help Barrie build a two-goal lead through 40. The Staten Island native created the icebreaker in the first period, backing up the Wolves defence and dropping to Justin Scott, who had time to go high glove on Franky Palazzese for his first OHL playoff goal. Labanc also got the 2-0 goal after a C.J. Garcia pass pinballed off the Wolves' Connor Crisp, leaving Labanc with an open net.
That helped Barrie get out to a two-goal spread after 40 minutes. Sudbury's Nate Pancel scored his second of the night with 13:07 remaining. A checking from behind double minor by the Wolves' Evan de Haan with 3:44 left blunted any chance of a comeback.
What positives might the Wolves wring out the loss? No one on the outside looking in can account for why Sudbury came out flat and was outshot 14-4 in first period, but it picked up its effort over the back half of the game. The Wolves hit three posts on the night and nearly got level in the third period when a Ray Huether shot went through Blackwood's 5-hole but went wide of the net. It outshot the Colts 13-4 in the final frame despite only getting to play for 16 minutes and change.
"It was tough because we had a lot of chances," Pancel told Rogers TV Barrie. "I know one [by Huether] just missed, went through the goalie's legs. That was tough to swallow. That four-minute penalty at the end killed us, we didn't get a chance to pull our goalie. We just have to be smarter.
"Practice Friday has to be Grade A and we can't start the next game the way we did tonight."
The Wolves will need much more out of both the Radek Faksa-Stephen Desrochers-Nick Baptiste and Mathew Campagna-Brody Silk-Crisp lines in Game 2.
The Colts also came out with some welts; No. 1 defenceman Aaron Ekblad was shaken up after being struck in the right elbow while blocking a second-period slapshot.
How comfortable did the 17-year-old Blackwood look in his post-season debut? The rookie had to focus, going long stretches without seeing a shot early in the game. The Thunder Bay, Ont., native robbed Crisp, the Montreal Canadiens third-rounder, on the Wolves' first good chance of the night, and made another quality save in the third. Blackwood, however, did have some bouts of shakiness. Pancel's second of the night also came on a bad angle shot from along the goal line. Ultimately, Blackwood got the first one out of the way.
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet.