‘We’re just try­ing to get it right’

Bat­tal­ion dress­ing 25 tonight against 67’s

North Bay Nugget - - SPORTS - SPE­CIAL TO THE NUGGET

The North Bay Bat­tal­ion, on a three-game los­ing skid, plays host to the Ot­tawa 67’s at 7 p.m. tonight in the On­tario Hockey League club’s an­nual Pink in the Rink game sup­port­ing the Canadian Cancer So­ci­ety and breast cancer aware­ness.

The Bat­tal­ion lost 7-3 Mon­day to the vis­it­ing Peter­bor­ough Petes af­ter a 3-1 set­back last Thurs­day night against the host Bar­rie Colts and a 2-1 over­time loss to the Sault Ste. Marie Grey­hounds at Memo­rial Gar­dens on Sept. 29.

“We have to keep the puck out of the net,” coach Stan But­ler, whose Troops have a won-lost-ex­tended record of 3-2-1 for seven points, third in the Cen­tral Di­vi­sion, said Wed­nes­day. “I think any time you give up seven goals you’re not go­ing to have much of a chance to win.”

The Bat­tal­ion has 23 skaters and two goal­tenders on the ros­ter af­ter left winger Ja­cob Ball was put on waivers Tues­day.

“Ball has gone home,” But­ler said of the Peter­bor­ough res­i­dent. “We’ve re­leased him from the team and we’re just wait­ing to see whether he clears through the league process, which takes 48 hours, and then at that time ei­ther he’ll get claimed or he’ll be re­as­signed some­where.”

But­ler suggested that the num­ber of play­ers with the club is too high.

“We’re still try­ing to sort our team out. We’ve still got too many play­ers here.”

The Bat­tal­ion, which missed the play­offs last sea­son for the first time since 2002 and for only the third time in the fran­chise’s first 19 sea­sons, has demon­strated pa­tience in player eval­u­a­tion.

“We’re just try­ing to get it right,” said But­ler. “I think we’re try­ing to make de­ci­sions based on fact in­stead of emo­tion, and we just want to make sure that we make the right de­ci­sions with play­ers. As we get to that point where we think we can make a good de­ci­sion one way or the other, we’ll make them.”

One fac­tor in Ball’s re­lease was the re­turn of over­ager Brett McKen­zie last Wed­nes­day from a pro­fes­sional try­out with the Utica Comets, the Amer­i­can Hockey League af­fil­i­ate of the Na­tional Hockey League’s Van­cou­ver Canucks, who se­lected him in the sev­enth round of the 2016 NHL Draft.

McKen­zie, who played cen­tre in his first four sea­sons af­ter be­ing the Troops’ first-round pick in the 2013 OHL Pri­or­ity Se­lec­tion, was shifted to left wing on his re­turn. The team’s lead­ing scor­ing last sea­son with 29 goals and 38 as­sists for 67 points in as many games, he earned his first point this sea­son with an as­sist against Peter­bor­ough.

“Ob­vi­ously, Brett’s a big part of our team and we need him to play well,” said But­ler. “I thought his first game in Bar­rie was out­stand­ing, and I thought his sec­ond game against Peter­bor­ough wasn’t.

“This is a big year for Brett. I want to see him get a con­tract. I think he’s a great kid, and hope­fully he can have a lot of good games this year that’ll al­low him to get that con­tract.”

Against Ot­tawa, the Bat­tal­ion will be with­out cen­tre Kyle Potts, who’s been sus­pended for four games af­ter re­ceiv­ing a match penalty for slash­ing Peter­bor­ough’s Austin Os­man­ski late in the third pe­riod.

The 67’s are 4-3-1 for nine points, tied with the Petes for sec­ond place in the East Di­vi­sion. Left winger Tye Fel­haber paces the of­fence with four goals and four as­sists for eight points in as many games, while cen­tre Austen Keat­ing has a team-high five goals in eight games.

The Pink in the Rink game, pre­sented by CAA North & East On­tario, is to fea­ture an auc­tion of the sweaters the Troops wear as well as a themed sweater au­to­graphed by the team. Chuck-a-puck prizes in­clude a team-au­to­graphed stick and a puck au­to­graphed by de­fence­man Cam Di­neen.

A lim­ited num­ber of pink T-shirts re­main avail­able for pur­chase, and Su­gar-Daddy Cup­cakes & Cater­ing will of­fer gourmet cup­cakes.

The Bat­tal­ion com­pletes its sched­ule for the week by vis­it­ing Bar­rie at 7:30 p.m. Satur­day and host­ing the Hamil­ton Bull­dogs at 2 p.m. Sun­day.

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