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Cranberry Sauce...The Brampton Battalion get an early Thanksgiving Day treat

ITO’s Trevor Miller, our Brampton Battalion go-to guy, has opted out of writing about the Troops this week, which means he left the door wide open for me. And since it was Green vs. Blue earlier this week in the Battle of Peel, I couldn’t wait to cover this one.

Last year these two teams played each other eight times with the Majors dominating the series 8-0. This season they’ll have seven more meetings, and this time around the Troops are off to a much better start, earning a 5-1 victory Monday afternoon at the Powerade Centre in the traditional Thanksgiving Day game.

Brampton is still missing some key guys in its lineup, including Mitch Porowski (suspension), Zach Bell, and Ian Watters, both out with injuries. Bell is due back soon, but Watters likely won’t be dressing until January. These setbacks have definitely plagued the Battalion, but it’s not an excuse they can use forever, especially since they have most of their main players back. Besides, it’s not like the Majors haven’t experienced their fair share of injuries.

Good news is it wasn’t an excuse they carried onto the ice.

The Battalion have always been a good team defensively, but struggle offensively. To earn a goal against a top netminder like JP Anderson, the team has to take as many shots as possible. Having fired 41, the Troops did just that, and it paid off.

Special teams were a huge factor in this one as well. Overall, the Battalion are ranked higher (first in penalty killing coming into the game) than the Majors and capitalized on two of seven opportunities. Riley Brace managed the lone goal on a 5-on-3 advantage with less than three seconds remaining in the first period.

Mississauga is a small, fast team. They seemed to have the fire power to take this win easily. However, they lack something that Brampton doesn’t: size. Blujus, Lane, Auld, Robinson, Goodrow. All these guys needed to throw their weight around to take control.

At one point, Dave Corrente had his sights set on Dylan Blujus. He might as well have charged a tank because the blueliner barely wobbled as Corrente tumbled to the ice.

On the topic of Blujus, the 6’3” 193 pounder has truly broken out of his rookie shell. He earned two markers in the 5-1 victory for a total of four goals and six points in six games, including the overtime winner against the Storm Friday night in Guelph.

Barclay Goodrow wasn’t rusty at all after missing the first four tilts of the season. In fact, I think it fired him up even more. The left winger had several chances to put one in the back of the net. He powered through St. Mike’s defence on a few occasions, but couldn’t beat Anderson. It was only a matter of time before he capitalized, putting the fourth marker on the board for the Battalion.

Oddly enough, with all the size and power the Troops carry, Stan Butler decided to go out and trade for the two smallest guys he could find, and it’s the little guys who are stealing the show; 5’9” Brett Mackie (two goals in two games) and 5’8” Jamie Lewis (two assists in two games) joining the 5’9” import Patrik Machac (two goals and five points in six games).

To the crowd’s enjoyment, there was plenty of rough stuff in this one, which is expected not only between these two teams, but with any team that’s down 5-1 in the third. From Andreas Tsogkas’ front-flip leveling, to Mackie dripping blood after a scrap with Junior Harris, penalties riddled this game, but it didn’t take away from its entertainment.

Both teams were fast out of the gates and their goaltenders were sharp. I worried about Anderson last season. I always knew he was a good goaltender, but I didn’t think he measured up in high-pressure situations. This year he has impressed me from day one. I think he improved a lot this summer and NHL camp helped with that.

Matej Machovsky leaves a bigger mark every time he steps between the pipes. He faced 31 shots and brought the crowd to its feet after denying an alone-in-front Derek Schoenmakers attempt with a great save on the power play.

What I liked the most about this team was that they played as one.

As for Mississauga, with its injuries, lines have been shuffled quite a bit. Brace (usually on the left wing) has taken a new position as centre, with Sergey Kuptsov and Schoenmakers in their usual spots on the wings. As players start coming back, I look forward to seeing what the changes will be. All I know for sure, this line is working…at least it has been until the trip to Brampton.

Hopefully this win will give the Battalion the boost of confidence they need. And it gives the skeptics something to think about as many people put Brampton at the bottom of the rankings this season.

It doesn’t mean I’m planning a Memorial Cup parade for this team anytime soon, but similar to the Majors, I think they’ve shocked a lot of people with their play thus far. And on top of that while we’re on the subject of the double blue, of all the teams in the league, I bet you didn’t think the Troops would be the ones to end the Majors winning streak, did you?

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