‘Lucky’ Belleville Bulls force Game 7, beast of burden bears down on Barrie Colts: OHL post-game questions

One could say the Barrie Colts and Belleville Colts each played like they knew a Game 7 was in the offing. Or strain for a simile and say Saturday was akin to a long-running TV series that has run out of steam and needs to pad out the story before the final season. Two rather random Brendan Gaunce goals and some superlative Malcolm Subban 'tending vaulted the Belleville Bulls to a series-tying win, while the Barrie Colts struggled without first-line wings Anthony Camara and Zach Hall. On with the post-game questions:

Belleville 3 Barrie 1 (Eastern final tied 3-3, Game 7 Monday at Belleville) — If you showed the game tape to 100 people with the scoring plays edited out, how many would presume a Barrie victory? Probably the majority. Subban was superb with 32 saves, including a highlight-reel glove save to rob Josh MacDonald in the second period when Barrie had a 15-11 shot advantage. The Colts also pinged the posts three times in that frame. Meantime, the first two Bulls salvos via captain Brendan Gaunce had an air of randomness about them. The Vancouver Canucks first-rounder surprised Barrie's Mathias Niederberger 19 seconds into the first period by drizzling a shot between the goalie's right pad and the near post, then beat him shortside from an acute angle along the goalline for the game-winner 3:54 into the third.

Hey, there is no luck in springtime, just winners and losers.

"As I said to the guys, I really didn't have much to say because I wasn't sure what to say," Bulls coach-GM George Burnett said. "It was a tough night. I think we were pretty fortunate to come out on top. I give them [Barrie] a lot of credit for how tenacious they were. I thought we were on our heels most of the night. It was a great effort by our goaltender tonight. We were opportunistic and got a couple great bounces at the right times. Brendan had two big goals tonight that energized our team and his leadership is a big reason why we're getting an opportunity to play Game 7."

"If you're going to win in the playoffs you have to play a full 60 and we didn't," Gaunce added. "We're lucky to have a great goaltender."

"Based on the change in energy from [Friday night] to tonight, the fact that we get a day off is going to be important, I'm sure it will be beneficial for them as well. Not looking too far ahead, but it's very important that we do the right things to give ourselves the best opportunity. It's great to have an opportunity to do this in front of our fans."

It wasn't the greatest advertisement for either of the two teams standing in the way of the London Knights' second consecutive championship. Then again, it was the second of back-to-back games after a fast-paced Game 5.

"I think guys didn't want to make mistakes and that might have contributed to the slow start," Gaunce said. "By the end of the game, the adrenalin was in everyone so I don't think fatigue was a factor. But maybe you could see it there earlier in the game."

How will the Colts draw on the experience of last spring, when they also got up 3-1 against Ottawa, but could not close out the series and lost a Game 7 on the road in overtime? One would think the Colts are a year older and wiser after that setback.

"We have a lot of experience in the room and we'll be ready to go for Game 7," forward Erik Bradford said.

The more pertinent matter for the Colts is that Camara is limbo after being suspended for a checking-to-the-head major/game misconduct late in Game 5. The Colts will apparently shove off for the series decider not knowing about the status of their 36-goal scorer and most rugged worker along the walls.

Going by the quote, unquote case law of previous OHL suspensions to guess what a player will receive is about as reliable as Don Cherry's relationship with reality on one of his good days. The Plymouth Whalers' Mitchell Heard was press-box parked for one game for a head shot in Game 4 of the Western final. It's possible Camara couild be reinstated.

(Update: Indeed, that appears to be the case.)

For the Colts, was this just puck luck or sign of something internally wrong? Going by both coaches' comments, it easily could have been a W for the other guys. Winnipeg Jets first-rounder Mark Scheifele, deprived of his wings Camara and Hall, was pointless but still stood up, getting a glorious chance in the third only to have Subban range well out of his crease to kick out a lethal low shot.

""I have no issue with our work ethic tonight," Colts coach Dale Hawerchuk said. "That second period we were dominant, tied it up [on an Aaron Ekblad goal]. Third period, we killed a couple penalties and had some great opportunities, a breakaway and a 3-on-1. It was there for the taking."

Did Camara's and Hall's absence throw off the Bulls as much as it did the Colts? It very well might have. Belleville certainly did not have the urgency it mustered one night earlier, even though it was still a do-or-done situation.

"You never like to see anyone injured at this time of year," Burnett said. "Sometimes when that happens the tendency, is you step back a little bit instead of pushing. We have to keep pushing. We didn't tonight and we were fortunate to get through."

"We were falling back into our retreat mode," added Burnett, whose main talking point throughout the series has been the Bulls' irregularity in hitting the attacking zone with speed. "We need to get more pressure up the ice so they can't utilize their terrific speed through the neutral zone."

Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet. Please address any questions, comments or concerns to btnblog@yahoo.ca.

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