by Taylor Pope (@TPope91)
Reunited and it feels so good. The Barrie Colts are red hot; winners of 5 straight and an early season 6 game losing streak is a thing of the past.
The Colts recent success is in part too many things; solid goaltending from 16 year old rookie Mackenzie Blackwood, scoring from all throughout the lineup, physical play but most importantly, their top line of Zach Hall, Mitchell Theoret and Andreas Athanasiou are back together and scoring at will.
The trio of veterans sit 1, 2 and 4 in team scoring with Hall sitting in 4th by 2 points behind Captain Aaron Ekblad despite missing 7 games while battling mononucleosis.
Hall has been the spark plug that has rejuvenated Theoret and Athanasiou who were in drastic slumps without him in the lineup. Hall has points in all 6 games since his return as does Athanasiou who couldn’t be happier to have the gifted playmaker back on his line.
“ We had a little bit of chemistry last year as Hall was on my line at the start of the year but getting all three of us going it took some time but you can see it’s starting to blend together nicely.” Said the 19 year old.
Hall admitted it took him about a week of practice to get back to full energy after his battle with mono but the overager feels he’s back to 100 percent.
“Definitely when I have full energy I feel a lot better out there, I feel like I can move and support the puck with those two.” Said Hall who has 9 points since his return to the lineup.
A teams offense starts with their top line...the big guns and when your best players aren’t scoring it puts more pressure on the rest of the team to produce. Pressure some players can’t handle.
“I wouldn’t say it’s too much pressure we have a good young core every night everyone’s going out and battling hard and doing what their supposed to do.” Said Hall.
“No, I think we know that, all three of us. We just come in and do the best we can for the team and we know we have to produce. “ Athanasiou said of the veteran line producing.
Even when the team was struggling to score, the Colts knew it was only a matter of time before things started clicking once again and chances were going to be buried.
“I’m sure the goals will come, we can’t go the rest of the year with not scoring any or scoring one goal a game. We’ll have our chances to score two or three.” Said Theoret after the Colts 6th straight loss on October 17th to Sault Ste. Marie.
Since that game Barrie is 8 and 2 and have outscored their opponents 43-27.
With the loss of Mark Scheifele, Anthony Camara and Steven Beyers who combined for an astonishing 208 points last season as the team’s first line; Hall, Theoret and Athanasiou had big shoes to fill this year as the pressure was now on them to score and it would be their teammates looking down the bench at them when the team needed a goal.
All three saw time on the first line last season alongside Mark Scheifele. Hall was given the biggest opportunity and took full advantage as the Belleville native led the team in points with 81.
Theoret who was acquired at last season’s trade deadline from the Niagara IceDogs filled the vacant wing during Anthony Camara’s plethora of suspensions during the OHL playoffs. Theoret responded by scoring 14 times in 22 games.
Athanasiou had a breakout year in his first season in Barrie racking up 67 points and the speedy Redwings prospect hopes to eclipse that mark this season.
One thing that makes the trio so dangerous is their versatility. All three can play any forward position and at times they rotate throughout the game. Theoret, the big power forward prefers being in the middle but can slide to the wing easily which he did at times last season to play alongside Scheifele in Barrie and Ryan Strome during his time in Niagara.
“We’re pretty versatile, anyone can play anywhere on our line and it helps for when a guy gets kicked out of the draw a new guy can step in so it definitely helps out a lot there.” Said Hall who mentioned he prefers the wing to utilize his speed better.
Regardless of where the three veterans are playing, their line seems to be a main stay on the Colts this season because when they’re clicking and scoring, the Colts are a tough team to beat.