Brampton - Tomas Marcinko scored two third-period goals, including an empty-netter, to lift the Barrie Colts to a 3-1 Ontario Hockey League victory Thursday night over the Brampton Battalion in the opening game of their best-of-seven Eastern Conference quarterfinal.
With the teams tied 1-1 in the spirited affair, Marcinko charged to the net and chipped the rebound of an Alex Hutchings shot behind Battalion goaltender Bryan Pitton at 14:22. Marcinko then scored into an empty net at 19:29.
After Marcinko's first goal, the Battalion pressed for the equalizer with Barrie's Matt Stanisz off for interference at 16:14. The Troops' best chance came at 17:34 when Colts goaltender Michael Hutchinson foiled Kyle DeCoste in the deep slot after he jumped on the rebound of a shot by Bobby Sanguinetti.
"That's a shot I have to put in," said DeCoste. "The puck dribbled out in front to me, and I just fired it as quick and hard as I could. He got a piece of it with his glove, and it went into his body. He's a good young goaltender who's got some confidence now, so we'll need to work for every goal."
The loss was the second-seeded Battalion's ninth in a row to Barrie, seeded seventh, in the postseason. The Troops' last playoff win was a 4-1 decision over the visiting Colts in the opener of a conference semifinal on April 6, 2006. Barrie won the next four games and then swept a conference quarterfinal last year.
Stefan Della Rovere also scored for the Colts, while Hutchings and Daniel Michalsky each earned two assists. Hutchinson faced 32 shots.
Cody Hodgson scored and Pitton made 25 saves for the Battalion, which finished atop the Central Division 26 points ahead of the fourth-place Colts.
"It was a very tight game," said Battalion coach Stan Butler. "Teams want to establish a physical presence early in the series, and I think both teams came out and tried to establish the style they're going to play. I thought both goalies were good.
"We fully expected this to be a tough series. There's nobody in our dressing room or coaches' office who expected anything other than that. They defend well and don't give you a lot."
Hodgson opened the scoring on the power play 40 seconds into the second period, seizing the deflection of a Sanguinetti shot and firing it past an out-of-position Hutchinson.
Della Rovere tied it with the man advantage at 6:52 when he swatted home the rebound of a Hutchings shot at the lip of the crease.
Barrie managed only four shots during a five-minute manpower advantage after Kody Musselman was assessed a major penalty for checking from behind and a game misconduct upon taking Marcus Pepe into the boards at 8:26. Pitton produced a stop on Ryan Berard in the 11th minute and denied Marcinko cruising through the slot in the 12th.
Pitton's best save through two periods came in the 19th minute when he stoned Michalsky with the right pad.
Each team had 10 shots in the scoreless first period. Hutchinson was sharp, getting his glove on a shot by Sanguinetti in the first minute, denying John Hughes with a right-pad stop in the sixth and foiling Graham McNabb on a shorthanded breakaway in the 16th. Pitton made a key stop at 16:42 against Michalsky in the deep slot.
Battalion scratches were Ben Alavie, Matt Clark, Alexander Eriksson and Mike Lomas. Barrie was without Adam Payerl, Jaroslav Kruzik, Brian Lashoff and Cory McGillis.
Barrie hosts the second game at 7:30 p.m. Saturday. Fans in the Brampton area can see it live on Rogers Cable 10.
BATTALION NOTEBOOK: A crowd of 2,349 was vociferously angry with questionable officiating throughout the game… The Battalion went 1-for-4 on the power play. Barrie was 1-for-5 … The clubs are meeting in the playoffs for the fourth time. The Troops, who have a 5-11 won-lost record in the postseason against Barrie, ousted the Colts in six games in a conference quarterfinal in 2002-03 … The Battalion is 7-5 in series openers … Opening Battalion line combinations included Hodgson centring left winger Luke VanMoerkerke and right winger Jason Dale, Thomas Stajan centring left winger McNabb and right winger Hughes and Matt Duchene pivoting left winger Cory Emmerton and Luke Lynes on right wing. DeCoste centred Scott Tanski on left wing and right winger Musselman … Lynes and defenceman John de Gray are the team's active leaders in playoff games with 22 … Lynes is the team's top active playoff scorer with 10 points on four goals and six assists … Duchene, Tanski and defenceman Jaroslav Hertl made their playoff debuts … Alavie and Lomas sat out with a broken collarbone and charley horse respectively. Eriksson, who turns 19 on Friday, is done for the season after knee surgery … McGillis served the first game of a five-game suspension for what the OHL termed a "bullying action" against Kaspars Daugavins of the Mississauga St. Michael's Majors at Barrie last Saturday night … Payerl and Kruzik were healthy scratches. Lashoff has an upper-body injury … Joel Washkurak, who worked with fellow referee Terry Hobor, was a teammate of Barrie assistant coach Drake Berehowksy with the Kingston Frontenacs in 1989-90 and 1990-91.