January 5, 2019

North Bay hockey update 2019

The North Bay Battalion should be buyers at the OHL trade deadline with captain Justin Brazeau, of New Liskeard, leading the Troops into whatever playoff opportunities arise. The team has draft picks to trade while needing another powerful force on the blueline and, truth be told, fans would appreciate the infusion of optimism. A seven-game win streak just erased a seven-game losing skid just as coach Stan Butler resumed his position on the bench. Don't sell out now.

I'm writing this as the Battalion leave Owen Sound Saturday night with their first loss in eight games but holding on for a point in a 4-3 shootout defeat. The Attack rallied from a 3-0 deficit with former Battalion defenceman, Brady Lyle, of North Bay, sending the contest into overtime. His powerplay marker with 6:17 remaining in the third gives him seven goals on the season. Don't blame Battalion goalie Christian Purboo for the loss, he did his part making 44 saves. The Attack's Mack Guzda relieved the besieged Andrew MacLean after 21 minutes of play and only had to make 18 stops over 43:32 of play while stoning Brazeau, Brad Chenier and Brandon Coe in the shootout.

Owen Sound, it should be noted, recently traded away one of their top centres with Kevin Hancock and his 31 goals shipped off to the powerhouse London Knights.

Of course, if the overage Brazeau wanted to be traded to a higher-percentage contender, that would be OK with me too. If it's top-shelf picks or young potential coming back, the franchise owe's him that respect and fans wouldn't mind so much to see a regional product get that chance. He almost scored 40 goals last season with 75 points during the regular season, plus six more in the playoffs, and the big, rangy winger is leading the league with 37 goals and 69 points with 28 more regular season games remaining.

Interesting to see what happens against the host Guelph Storm Sunday afternoon.

But I think the preference, and the smart long-term move, is for the Battalion franchise to invest a little bit more. The brass have done well in the past to load up at the right time. That time is now.

In other hockey news ...

It was cool to watch the North Bay Minor Midget Trappers blank the Soo Minor Midget Thunderbirds 2-0 at Memorial Gardens Saturday afternoon. I don't get out much anymore and it gave me a chance to chat with photographer Tom Martineau (he lent me some of his pics for this story, which explains the one above of his son winning a defensive zone faceoff).

When I worked for the Nugget, I was shooting a lot of Battalion games and we had a lot of fun joking about all kinds of topics while we worked. Funny how we still don't agree about the calls made by officials.

His son, Ethan, is on the Trappers team and made a sweet play for the third-period cushion goal scored by Ben White. He had been doing well while on defence during powerplays, his previous position as a peewee and bantam, but was also generating chances as one of the centres. And his steal at the Trappers blueline gave North Bay a rare break. Martineau raced down the left side, drawing the defenceman over while entering the Soo zone and he made a silky-smooth pass to White, who made no mistake with a wrister for the 2-0 lead.

I spent the second and third period's shooting the shit with Chris White, who I've known since 1987 when I designed a menu for his Waves restaurant on Main Street (now called Moose's Cookhouse).  We always have lots to talk about, often about our boys and their sporting exploits, but also about business and local issues. His son Ben had a two-point game after also setting up the winning goal by Cam Lemcke in the second period.

The slick-skating playmaker had just recently been called up to the major division by the New Liskeard Cubs that got bombed 14-0 by the undefeated North Bay Major Midget Trappers to begin 2019 posting a football score.

Like I said, I don't get out much lately and it was nice to socialize at the Gardens again.

I was very impressed with the goaltending of Owen Wray, who showed elite-level focus to make saves on deflections and battled hard to more than earn that shutout. The minor midget Trappers may not have piled up the wins this season, just 4-14 in Great North Midget League play so far, but I know being on a team that has to work hard for wins every game is good for a goalie's development. And it showed

The North Bay minors and majors play each other at the West Ferris arena next Saturday, Feb. 12, which will prove a weird game for the coaches as well as players. I'm more interested in seeing the majors on Sunday, Feb. 13, when they host the Kapuskasing Flyers in Powassan at 2:30 p.m.

(A big thank you to Tom Martineau for the photos illustrating this report. I don't have the equipment for shooting action anymore. Which is a bummer.)

Tom Martineau Photo
Tom Martineau Photo


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