Brampton - A little communication went a long way for left winger Stephon Thorne and his Brampton Battalion linemates Wednesday night.
Thorne has played seven of the Battalion's 11 Ontario Hockey League playoff games with centre Matt Duchene and right winger Scott Tanski.
They combined for a Duchene goal at 5:03 of the second period that proved to be the winner as the Troops defeated the host Belleville Bulls 4-2 in the first game of the best-of-seven Eastern Conference Championship Series.
The Battalion hosts Game 2 at 7:30 p.m. Friday. Tickets are available at the Quartermaster Retail Store in the Powerade Centre from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Thursday and at the team's office at the west end of the arena starting at 9:30 a.m. Friday.
Thorne, an 18-year-old Mississauga resident, said he expects the Bulls to be more physical in the second game.
"We'll see what they have for us. They'll come out strong, and I think they'll probably take a lot more shots, too."
Thorne set up Duchene's goal, digging out the puck on the right-wing boards and feeding it to Duchene, who spun away from defender P.K. Subban and snapped a shot over the left shoulder of goaltender Mike Murphy.
"We had talked about that kind of play earlier," said Thorne. "I knew that if I tied up their guy Matt would have a clear lane. It worked for us, and Matt did a nice job on the shot."
Duchene's goal, one of three second-period scores, was his team-leading eighth and tied Luch Aquino's club record, set in 2006, for goals in a playoff season.
"That goal started from a good forecheck by Tanski," said Duchene, who leads the playoffs with a club-record four game-winning goals. "I grabbed the puck out of the air, and Thorne was there in support. We worked it out of the corner, Tanski just missed his shot, Thorne got it to me and I was able to walk out front. That goal belongs to them as much as me."
The Troops built a 4-1 lead through two periods, and coach Stan Butler said he'd like them to maintain that level of consistency throughout the game. The Battalion, which held a 29-18 edge in shots through two periods, was outshot 12-8 in the third.
"Our first two periods were great, but I thought in the third we got a little bit away from what we'd been doing. We tried to make fancy plays at their blue line, and they got back at us in transition. That's something we need to work on."
A seventh-round choice in the 2006 OHL Priority Selection, Thorne had eight goals and four assists for 12 points in 61 games this season.
"The coaches must have a lot of confidence in me to put me in a situation most other rookies wouldn't be in. I'm happy for that."
Duchene said Thorne has been great in the postseason.
"I really hope some National Hockey League teams are looking at him for a free-agent tryout. He's working so hard to make things happen. He's doing all the little things you need to do to be successful in the playoffs. He's fun to play with. He's good on the cycle and doesn't give the puck up. He can play both an offensive and a grinding role."