Third win in a row puts Fronts closer to eighth place

Kingston Frontenacs forward Vitali Pinchuk gets slashed by North Bay Battalion defenceman Ryan Thompson as he goes in on a breakaway during Ontario Hockey League action at the Leon's Centre in Kingston on Friday. (Ian MacAlpine/Kingston Whig-Standard) Ian MacAlpine / Ian MacAlpine/Whig-Standard/Postmedia Network

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If the Kingston Frontenacs are going to move into a playoff spot in the Ontario Hockey League’s Eastern Conference, they’re going to need to pick up points on the one team currently below them in the standings and upset the odd team above them.

With a 4-3 win over the Eastern Conference third-place Peterborough Petes on Wednesday night they accomplished the latter, and on Friday night at the Leon’s Centre they took care of the former with a 4-3 win over the conference cellar-dwelling North Bay Battalion in front of an announced gathering of 2,567.

By stretching their winning streak to three games — and winning for the fourth time in their last six games — the Frontenacs (17-28-2-2 for 38 points) moved within a single point of the reeling Niagara IceDogs, who hold the last playoff spot in the conference but have lost seven in a row and 13 of their last 15.

Last-place North Bay fell to 11-37-2-0 for 24 points.

“It’s been our goal all year to get in the playoffs, and now we’re knocking on the door and we have to find a way to string some wins together,” Frontenacs head coach Kurtis Foster said. “You’re not always going to be great every game. You have to find a way to win when you’re not doing your best.

“I thought for two periods we were pretty strong, we didn’t give up too much, had some good looks, good chances and the game went the wrong way when we got that five-minute power play.”

In the third, the Frontenacs couldn’t take advantage of the five-minute manpower advantage, including more than a minute of a two-man advantage, and the Battalion stayed within striking distance.

After Harrison Caines’ five-minute match penalty for slew-footing expired at 12:55, Frontenacs forward Dawson Baker just missed a breakaway goal and the Battalion’s Shane Bulitka came back the other way and scored to make it 4-3 with just under six minutes remaining.

But, despite some close calls, the Frontenacs were able to close the door the rest of the way.

“The guys held the fort at the end there, played hard and made some blocks,” Foster said. “There are lessons to be learned for sure.”

The teams tied 6-6 in shots in the third period and Kingston outshot North Bay 33-22 overall.

Kingston got off to a 2-0 first-period lead on goals from Baker, his 16th of the season, at 13:21 and rookie Francesco Arcuri, his sixth, just over two minutes later.

The teams traded goals in the second period, with a wrist shot from the right side by Frontenacs forward Vitali Pinchuk beating goaltender Joe Vrbetic. It was the Belarus import’s seventh goal of the year.

North Bay answered back at 16:08 when Luke Moncada’s shot deflected off Jakob Brahaney’s glove and behind goaltender Ryan Dugas.

Kingston thought it had its fourth goal of the game late in the second period as Shane Wright’s shot from the slot beat Vrbetic, but not the clock. After a lengthy review, it was ruled no goal as time had expired.

Only 16 seconds into the third period, Kingston’s Zayde Wisdom finished off a three-way passing play with a tap-in for his 23rd of the season, making it 4-1.

Caines scored North Bay’s second goal at 4:48 of the third, narrowing it deficit to two goals.

The Frontenacs host the Mississauga Steelheads at 2 p.m. on Sunday.

Until recently, Kingston’s underage rookie Shane Wright and Peterborough Petes’ 2019 first-round selection Mason McTavish were neck and neck in the OHL’s rookie scoring race.

Over the past few weeks, however, that has changed.

After Friday’s action, Wright has opened a sizable lead with 30 goals and 49 points in 45 games, while McTavish has played three more games and has 39 points, including 29 goals.

Also, Martin Chromiak, with only 15 games played, has moved into 18th place among rookies with eight goals and 20 points.

It was a reunion of sorts for four players — two on the Frontenacs and a pair on the Battalion— who are graduates of the OHL Cup champion Don Mills Flyers AAA minor midgets. Kingston has centres Wright and Arcuri while North Bay has centre Liam Armsby and right-winger Alex Christopoulos.

Out of Kingston’s lineup were Luke Drewitt and Ian Martin, with injuries.

imacalpine@postmedia.com

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Kingston Frontenacs forward Shane Wright gets a shot off on North Bay Battalion goaltender Joe Vrbetic as defenceman Paul Christopoulos looks on during Ontario Hockey League action at the Leon’s Centre in Kingston on Friday. (Ian MacAlpine/The Whig-Standard) Ian MacAlpine / Ian MacAlpine/Whig-Standard/Postmedia Network