Tonight the Barrie Colts head to Niagara to face the IceDogs at the Meridian Centre. The meeting will be the first of six this season. In their season series last year, Barrie won 4 of 6 meetings in the regular season outscoring Niagara 21-20, however it would be Niagara who would get the last laugh when they swept the Colts in the Eastern Conference Finals. Both teams sit at the bottom of the Central Division and a win for the Dogs could bring them within 1 point of climbing out of that bottom spot.
Niagara and Barrie are looking fairly similar so far this year as they both have found themselves struggling early in the year. Only 3 points apart, they have been identical over the past 10 games both having a 3-6-1-0 record. A huge reason for the slow start has been a lack of scoring. Barrie has scored 40 goals, while Niagara has scored 41. The only teams to score fewer goals this year are the Kingston Frontenacs and the Saginaw Spirit. Goals against and penalties have also looked fairly close between these two teams with Barrie allowing 49 goals against, with the Dogs allowing 47. That has them both in the bottom five teams for most goals allowed.
Niagara is coming off of a 5-3 win last night over Saginaw. heavily outplayed over the first two periods despite having a 3-0 lead headed into the 3rd period. Saginaw looked pretty strong outshooting the Dogs 29-10. The Spirit would not go down without a fight though scoring 7 seconds into the period and getting another goal 1:37 into the period. They would end up tying the game just before the halfway mark of the period on a short handed goal by Mitchell Stephens. It would be Oliver Castleman who would end up scoring the game winning goal with Christopher Paquette scoring an insurance goal with less than 4 minutes left in the game. No doubt that this game could have been a huge blowout without the play of Niagara goalie Stephen Dhillon who made 43 which would earn him the first star of the game.
Barrie was beaten by Alex DiBrincat. Oh, and the rest of the Otters I guess. DiBrincat scored 2 goals, got 2 assists, was a +4 and won 10 of 15 faceoffs. Yes, he was the star of the game. The Otters almost doubled the Colts shot production outshooting them 45 to 26. That is not very promising considering that Barrie had 6 power plays compared to Erie's 3. That being sad, the Colts scored both their goals on the power play. Finoro and Stefano both scored for the Colts. More could be said here but it was just a case of the better team winning. Luckily, Barrie only has to play them one more time this year.
Keys to Success: Barrie will need to do a lot of things if they want to be stronger this year but sometimes it is focusing on the more simple parts of the game that you need to do to turn things around. Erie won 43 faceoffs compared to Barrie's 32. May not sound like a huge deal but that is a lot of times to try and get things set up for a team, especially with the skill of Erie. Barrie has looked better on the PP but if they could win faceoffs, it could allow them more chances to get shots which obviously could result in more goals. I hope Coach Hawerchuk has the team working on faceoffs and setting up plays after winning the draw.
Players to Watch: I would look for captain Cordell James to have a strong game. I feel he will be an energy guy for the team with hopes of turning things around for the struggling Colts. Niagara is a good team to try and get things sorted out and the Colts really will want to get the win in this game if they look to turn things around sooner rather than later.
Puck drop is scheduled for 7:00 tonight at the Meridian Centre in Niagara.