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PETERBOROUGH, ON - Despite a two goal lead mid way through the second period on Thursday night, the Belleville Bulls saw their 4-2 cushion slip away within a timespan of three minutes and eleven seconds as the Peterborough Petes took a 5-4 home ice victory.
After going 3-0 at the Memorial Centre for the first time in the team's history a year ago, the Bulls set out to continue their run of success in Peterborough.
Belleville forward Carter Sandlak set the tone early, foreshadowing what would be a rough n' tumble affair with a division rival as he squared off with Clark Seymour in the game's second shift. The tilt got the Peterborough crowd into the game as the Bulls went to work on the scoring front.
In one of his first shifts back in the Belleville lineup, Adam Payerl made an immediate impact as he came through the neutral zone with speed, snapping a low shot on the pads of Mike Morrison. The Petes goaltender made the first save, but the rebound came out to Simon Gronvaldt who saw the big-bodied Payerl going to the slot as he deflected in his first goal of the season at 4:46.
What would turn into an offensively dominated first period continued at 5:48 when big enforcer Derek Mathers got the Petes knotted up at one. Off the offensive zone faceoff victory, Clark Seymour sent a low puck to the net that was turned away by Malcolm Subban. Off the rebound, Stephen Silas' clearing attempt was thwarted as the 19 year-old had his pocket picked and Mathers capitalized on a loose puck in the Belleville goalmouth.
The Bulls however, got right back onto their feet as the strong forechecking of Michael Curtis created an opportunity under a minute later. Swooping over the offensive blueline on a neutral zone forecheck, Curtis got his stick on an errant pass that eventually was fed to Brendan Gaunce who took a low dribbler that somehow evaded Morrison as Belleville went ahead 2-1.
A pattern that would repeat itself consistently throughout the game, the Petes soon tied the score. Alan Quine's solo effort at 14:09 came as veteran Bulls defender Simon Gronvaldt was unable to get the puck past centre ice, allowing Detroit Red Wings product Quine to blaze down the right wing and beat Subban on a second wack at a rebound for his second of the season.
To spark the team, sophomore winger Dylan Corson found a dance partner and dropped the gloves with Peterborough blueliner Slater Koekkoek seconds later as the son of longtime NHL grinder Shayne Corson got his fair share of solid rights and a big left in during the bout.
The Bulls ended a wild first period on a positive note as Austen Brassard continued his stellar early start to the campaign, receiving an excellent up-ice pass from Adam Payerl to beat Morrison over the left shoulder at 19:18. Brassard and the Bulls entered the intermission up 3-2 in a road game that would only get more intense.
Early in the second, Payerl challenged Petes tough guy Derek Mathers off a neutral zone faceoff, a tilt that came as a result of a big open ice hit from behind on Bulls blueliner Stephen Silas a few minutes earlier. Silas would return to the game after a brief hiatus.
Garrett Hooey notched his first as a Bull 6:12 into the second period to give the Bulls a 4-2 cushion. After winning an offensive zone draw cleanly, Hooey hammered home a rebound off Brady Austin's point shot. The terrain only got tougher for Belleville though, as Peterborough kicked their game into overdrive from that point onward.
2011 second overall pick Nick Ritchie brought Peterborough to within a goal from tiny Petes playmaker Lino Martschini. With the Bulls tired at the end of a long shift, Martschini gave Ritchie a backhand feed through the high slot, as the 15 year-old youngster beat Malcolm Subban inside the near post with a quick wrister.
The momentum continued to shift Peterborough's way moments later when Peterborough native and former Saginaw Spirit product Dylan Fitze took advantage of the old "Peterborough bounce" off the side wall, putting a floating knuckler over the shoulder of a screened Subban at 13:50. Linemates Stephen Pierog and Stephen Nosad worked hard off the forecheck to create the quick opportunity.
In a span of 3:11, the Bulls went from up two goals to trailing by one as Ottawa Senators first round pick Matt Puempel completed the comeback. With tired legs in the defensive zone, the Bulls couldn't clear a loose puck as it quickly turned into a dangerous scoring opportunity as Puempel beat Subban on a second effort at 14:44.
Fiery newcomer Jason Shaw did what he could to rally the troops with a toe-to-toe fight with Connor Boland to close out the period. Shaw would have to leave the game as he injured his left hand in the fight.
Despite a hard fought effort in the third, the Bulls wouldn't be able to regain their once comfortable lead, eventually falling 5-4.
Belleville had chances late in the game, including a big Morrison save off Austen Brassard from point blank range with just over one minute left in the third period.
"We didn't compete consitently tonight," said Bulls Assistant Coach Jake Grimes following the game. "The compete level lacked at times and that led to us being outmuscled in several instances."
The Bulls, who played dropped the first game of a three in three, will go back to the drawing board tomorrow morning as they prepare for battle against the Oshawa Generals at the GM Centre on Friday. "We're going to need to look at some video and sit down with a few guys that we thought we could have gotten more out of," added Grimes. "It's still early in the season and we need to see what adjustments we need to make with certain players to have them playing to the fullest of their potential."
Belleville was outshot 40-33 by a Petes team that resembled "the Petes teams of old," described Grimes. "You have to credit them for playing a solid physical game on a smaller surface tonight, we need to be prepared for that."
In three games this season, the Bulls have yet to score or be scored upon in third periods.
Adam Payerl was named the game's second star as he registered a goal and an assist in his first game back from training camp with the Columbus Blue Jackets. Nick Ritchie took first star honours as the former Toronto Marlboros forward scored his third goal of the young season.
The Bulls are back in action on Friday night at 7:35pm in Oshawa against the Generals who have started the season 1-1. Tune into AM800 CJBQ at 6:45pm for pre-game coverage with Jack Miller.