“Put the chances in the net and score a goal, it’s as simple as that.” Said a frustrated Aaron Ekblad after the Colts dropped their sixth game in a row in a 1-0 loss to the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds on October 17th.
Ekblad took it upon himself to score that goal as the Colts Captain opened the scoring two nights later and the Colts snapped their losing skid with a 4-2 win over the visiting Plymouth Whalers.
Heading into the season there was question if this Colts team could score goals after the losses of Mark Scheifele, Anthony Camara and Steven Beyers. The Colts put all the critics to bed scoring 14 times in the first two games of the season but a recent six game slide that saw Barrie score just 8 times has brought the question of ‘Can this team score?’ back to the forefront.
Three consecutive 2-1 losses and a 1-0 loss in which the Colts shelled Greyhounds netminder Matt Murray with 38 shots but were still unable to find the back of the net had everyone wondering where the Colts offence had gone.
Never in the Dale Hawerchuk era has a Colts team struggled to score goals. The former NHL All-Star and Hall of Famer who is in his 4th season behind the Barrie bench has always put an offensive minded team on the ice.
Scoring has never been a problem with Barrie teams and the players knew it was only a matter of time before they broke out of their funk.
“We’re getting a ton of chances, we’ve run into a lot of hot goalies lately it’s unbelievable. I don’t understand where they went; got to go check the lost and found at a couple of the other rinks to make sure we didn’t leave any goals there. Said a baffled Ekblad who had goals in 3 straight Barrie wins before being held off the scoresheet in Saturday’s 4-1 loss to Saginaw
“It’s crazy how many chances we’re getting and we just have to capitalize. We have to stay positive, come game after game and just think we’re going to score...believe it and have the will.”
Since the losing streak, Barrie has won 3 of 4 and scored 16 goals in those four games. During the losing streak it wasn’t that the team was playing poorly, they just couldn’t score.
The team was playing their best defensive hockey of the season and were getting great goaltending from new number one netminder Mackenzie Blackwood.
Blackwood is amongst the league leaders in both goals against average and save percentage yet sports a 2-5-1 record.
With Barrie scoring goals of late, the 16 year olds record is surely to improve and one player who is making sure that happens is second year forward Brendan Lemieux.
The power forward had goals in three straight Barrie wins just like roommate Aaron Ekblad and now has 5 on the season, 1 shy of his goal total from his rookie year.
“It’s burying your chances and then there’s just going to the game and you’re lighter on your stick, you’re not squeezing your stick as hard and you’ve got that confidence and that makes a big difference with a lot of players.” Said the 17 year old who is eligible for this year’s NHL draft.
“ You see around the league guys get hot real fast and that’s all confidence and I think we’ve finally got our confidence back and pucks are starting to go in and that’s the way the Barrie Colts play and that’s the way we’re going to play throughout the year and that’s what we have to keep doing.”
The Colts have their confidence back and are getting offence from all throughout their lineup but more is still expected of their big guns. Andreas Athanasiou and Mitchell Theoret have been very quiet in the month of October but both had a 3 point night in Friday’s 7-5 win in Sarnia and that is what is expected of the two veterans.
Josh MacDonald has also ended up in Coach Hawerchuk’s doghouse. After scoring 2 goals in the season opener the third year winger has just 1 in his last 12 games and has seen his ice time diminish the last few games.
With a good week seeing the Colts take 2 of 3 they have improved their record to 6-7-1 and now sit just 2 points behind Sudbury for the division lead.