The Kingston Frontenacs wrapped up their home schedule for the 2017-18 season on Friday night. They did it against the North Bay Battalion, a team that could be making the trip back to Kingston next week when the OHL playoffs begin. The Battalion were coming off a 5-1 win in Peterborough on Thursday. The Frontenacs were riding a lengthy winning streak of 6 games over North Bay on home ice, including a 3-2 win on February 11. Kingston had taken 2 of 3 games this season overall. It was the last opportunity for both teams to set a tone before their potential upcoming playoff series.
The Frontenacs were looking for a quick start coming off a loss on Wednesday night and they got it. Justin Pringle put Kingston ahead with a spinning backhand shot that beat Julian Sime. Cliff Pu added to the lead with a goal that got the crowd off their feet. He dangled around a defender and tucked it under Sime for a 2-0 lead in the opening nine minutes. The TV timeout came at a good time for North Bay. They appeared to be a different team in the second half of the period. Jake Henderson put the Battalion on the board to close the gap to 2-1. Brandon Coe scored the tying goal when he elected to shoot on an odd-man rush and beat Helvig. The first period was a tale of two halves that resulted in the game being right back to where it started, all square.
The scoring pace slowed early in the second period. Neither team found the net until late in the middle frame. North Bay benefited from some generous calls when the referees sent Mitchell Byrne and Cliff Pu off for back to back unsportsmanlike conduct penalties. The Frontenacs killed off both penalties, but it was North Bay that jumped out to a 3-2 lead. Matthew Struthers sent a pass to the front of the net that bounced around and made its way over the goal line. Kingston fought back to tie the game. Gabe Vilardi had a clean face-off win in the offensive zone and it found the tape of Linus Nyman. Nyman took a perfect wrist shot to beat Julian Sime for his 39th of the season that tied the game 3-3. That was all the scoring in the second period and the game headed to the final period still tied.
Kingston was looking for a big third period, not just to win the game but to build some confidence. Cliff Pu gave the team a boost when he scored his second of the game to put Kingston ahead midway through the period. Gabe Vilardi extended the Kingston lead when he buried a rebound to make it 5-3. The two-goal lead seemed to take some pressure off of Kingston. They didn’t look as tight and started playing the defensive game they are capable of to close out the game. With Julian Sime on the North Bay bench for the extra attacker, Kingston was able to keep the puck in the offensive zone to kill significant time. North Bay never threatened to tie the game despite having a man advantage and Kingston held on to win the game 5-3.
With the two points, Kingston has locked themselves into the third seed for the OHL playoffs. It was their 22nd win on home ice this season, which is tied with Hamilton for most in the division. It has yet to be decided who Kingston will face in the first round, although the picture is starting to get clearer. They will face either North Bay or Mississauga.
The Frontenacs wrap up the regular season on Sunday afternoon at 2 PM in Mississauga against the Steelheads. The opening round of the OHL playoffs starts next weekend. Kingston will host games 1 and 2 of their first-round series.