Hockey

North Bay Battalion Struggle to get out of Slump

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The North Bay Battalion have been one of the most dominant teams in the league this year. For the first half of the season, they were on the top of the Eastern Conference and it looked like no one would be able to touch them.

Fast-forward to today where the Battalion have the third-worst streak in the East and while only third, have more than six games in hand compared to the Kingston Frontenacs and Barrie Colts. A team that looked like the favorites to make the finals are now fighting to keep in the top half of the league.

The last game they had before their slump officially started was against the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds in a rare occasion of East vs. West this season. However, since then their production has been lacking, they have gone on the lose more games than win and includes a 7-6 overtime loss to the Niagara IceDogs and an 8-2 loss to the Colts. Now, their top spot has been secured by Central Conference rival, the Mississauga Steelheads.

What is the problem?

It’s a little tough to know exactly what went wrong with the Battalion. The big elephant in the room is when they were starting their decline the Omicron variant started to ravage the province but even so the team hasn’t been affected any worse than other teams until this past week when it was announced their game against the Steelheads would be postponed because of players were testing positive.

There still hasn’t been an official announcement on who has been affected but the situation looked good enough for the match against the Colts on the 16th.

Even the production of the team’s stars hasn’t changed much. Edmonton Oilers prospect Matvey Petrov has instances when he has low shots on net and barely any goals, but he still produces at least one assist per game and his biggest slump alone came in the early season in a two-game time when he produced no points. In the Battalion December slump, he has been producing points.

What about the other members of the team? San Jose Sharks prospect Brandon Coe has been producing still and Mitchell Russell has been the same on paper. Even when you watch the Battalion play it doesn’t look like the team has changed at all.

Developing through the season.

That may be the problem. The team looks dominant and is dominant on the ice, but when you look at their competitors like the Hamilton Bulldogs and the Steelheads, they have grown more as a team this season than the Battalion have.

The Battalion have talent but the cracks have been showing. Their goalie, Montreal Canadiens prospect Joe Vrbetic has been facing a lot of shots throughout the season. With the teams facing the Battalion more often because they don’t play the Western conference, Vrbetic has been a goalie enemy teams have become much more familiar with.

But even then, teams are figuring out their defense as well. While the team remains one of the most offensive teams in the league their defense has struggled to keep the puck out of the zone and the net.

However, Battalion fans shouldn’t worry about this slump yet. A hockey season is a marathon, not a race and sometimes there will be times in that marathon when you aren’t running the speed you want to. The Battalion should take some time to figure out the problems with the team that can be seen and can’t be seen by the public. If they do that, the team will be once again a powerhouse in the Eastern Conference and in the playoffs where there is no time to have a slump.

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