In big games you want and need your best players to show up. And that's exactly what happened for the Belleville Bulls on Family Day Vs The Barrie Colts. This was easily the biggest game of the regular season to date for the Belleville Bulls and they stepped up in a big way winning their sixth game in a row, defeating the Central Division leading Colts 3-0 at the Yardman Arena, in front of a very lively 3664 fans, The victory gives the Bulls the Top seed in the OHL's Eastern Conference with 76 points one more then Barrie with 75. Belleville has two games in hand.
A crash on the 401 delayed the start of the game by two hours. When things finally got started at 4:00PM, this Barn Yard Battle was more then worth the wait. This was a heavyweight bout and both teams wanted to set the pace early and that lead to a very fast and physical 1st period. Belleville out shot Barrie 10-7 in the opening frame and Colts goalie Mathias Niederberger was strong, helping to kill two Belleville power plays in the 1st. You could tell early on that the Colts were looking to get something going when they double shifted Mark Scheifele. Belleville Native and Barrie's leading scorer Zack Bell rang one off the post in the 1st period, but thats as close as anyone would get. After 20 minutes the game was scoreless but it was highly entertaining and had a real playoff feel to it.
In the second period Minnesota Wild draft pick Tyler Graovac scored his 31st of the season at 5:04 from Jordan Subban, who took the initial shot and Tyler buried the rebound The goal ended up being the game winner and was Graovac's sixth game winner of the season and third in the month of February. Graovac has been on a nice pace since coming to the Bulls with 20 points (10G,10A) in 17 games. Tyler has scored 7 goals in his last 6 games. With the assist on the goal and a 4 point game in the 7-5 win over Sudbury on Saturday night, draft eligible Jordan Subban now has 5 points (3G, 2A) in his last 2 games and has been playing some off his best hockey of the season. The Bulls held the edge in shots again this time by a margin of 15-12.
In the third period Barrie was strong out shooting the Bulls 10-5 but it was Belleville that would do all the scoring. The goal that made it 2-0 was scored on a penalty shot by Anaheim draft pick Joseph Cramarossa his 15th goal on the season. Since the trade deadline Cramarossa Sr has been in beast mode and has been a leader on this team. Joseph is the real deal he does it all for the the Bulls, he fights, he hits, he plays special teams, he can really skate and has great pull away speed, that he is really starting to use regularly to win races to pucks, he has good hands both passing and shooting and plays a boat load of minutes for Head Coach George Burnett. Lots have been made of the moves that GM Burnett made at the trade dead line this season, but the one he made last season is also looking very strong. Cramarossa has career highs already in every offensive category and has 28 points (8G,20A) in 19 games in 2013. Very few shifts pass that Cramarossa plays that you don't notice him as the top player on the ice. To seal the deal for Belleville Brendan Gaunce scored his 25th from J Cramarossa and Jake Worrad. The Bulls Captain and Vancouver prospect scored in to an empty net short handed. The skipper has also been playing well lately, he too had a hat trick and a four point night vs the Wolves on Saturday and has 10 points in his last 10 games. Brendan reminds me of Mats Sundin, he skates big (if that makes any sense), he's as good without the puck as he is with it, he does a lot of things really well for his team and all players on the Bulls roster follow his lead. You can tell that Gaunce is the leader but not the "Mess" style leader throwing guys around the dress room for not doing their part, but more like Sundin where he does his job and does it well and sets the bar on effort, skill and sacrifice.
The star of this game was the Bulls biggest star. Malcolm Subban was lights outs after being pulled after giving up 4 goals on 16 shots vs Sudbury, Subban bounced back in a big way making 29 saves and earning his 3 shut out of the season. l thought Malcolm was the the games 1st Star. He was very good on the penalty kill and looked very calm and very relaxed all game. Bounce back games are nothing new for Malcolm Subban he has shown during his career in Belleville that after a sub par outing, he has always came back with a strong game.
Belleville is on a 6 game winning streak and will finish up a four game home stand this week with a Wednesday night visit from the Ottawa 67's and the Peterborough Petes on Saturday before traveling to Ottawa on Sunday.
Notes: Charlie Graham also has 3 shut outs this season.... Both Michael Curtis (Knee) and Niki Petti (Elbow) could be out for 2-4 weeks....Bulls Power Play has improved and before Monday's game vs Barrie had scored in 5 straight games, its still ranked 20th overall running at 14.9%..... The Penalty Killing is still strong running at a 86.3% clip and is ranked 1st in the OHL.....Belleville has scored 174 goals and has gave up a league best 135.