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Ottawa 67's Split homestand

by Alex Quevillon

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The Ottawa 67’s (26-11-4-1) split a two-game weekend and pull into sole possession of first place in the Eastern Conference.  The Niagara Ice Dogs briefly pulled even with Ottawa, but a Sunday win gave the Barberpoles the advantage. 

Friday, January 13 vs. Peterborough


The Peterborough Petes recovered from a rough start on Friday night to register their first win in their divisional rivalry with the 67’s this season.  Ottawa had taken the previous four meetings.  Andrew D’Agostini made 27 saves to preserve the win for Peterborough (20-17-3-3).

Early on, it seemed as though Ottawa had the Petes on the ropes, taking advantage of a tired opponent that had lost at home the night before and had to travel through a treacherous Eastern-Ontario storm.  The newest member of the 67’s, Mike Cazzola, only needed twelve seconds to make his presence felt, scoring his third of the season to give Ottawa the early advantage.

Ottawa continued to pour it on in the first ten minutes, and Shane Prince gave them a two-goal advantage with his 20th of the season.    After that, the Barberpoles seemed all too happy to coast with the lead.  The visitors had other plans.

Before the first period was done, Joey West got Peterborough on the board with a powerplay marker, his 15th of the year.  Luke Hietkamp had the only tally in the second period, an unassisted, shorthanded goal to draw even.

West continued to contribute, setting up Andrew Yogan for the go-ahead goal in the final frame.  Prince scored his second of the night, assisted by Cazzola, to tie the game but it was short-lived.  23 seconds later, Ottawa-born Alan Quine put the Petes ahead for good.

Yogan was taken down on an empty-net breakaway by John McFarland and credited with the goal.  Yogan, an overager, is having a solid start to 2012 with five goals in his last six games.

This game did not feature a re-match between heavyweights Dalton Smith and Derek Mathers, who have fought each other three times in their OHL career, despite Ottawa captain Marc-Anthony Zanetti being decked by a questionable hit from behind from Mathers.  The game did have its fair share of nastiness however.

Brett Gustavsen took on the much taller Stephen Pierog in a short but spirited second-period bout.  Pierog landed more shots, but Gustavsen knocked Pierog down with a big left hand, call it a draw.  The Petes may be without Cole Murdoff after this weekend; he dropped the gloves with Ryan Van Stralen, ripping the rookie’s helmet off.  Van Stralen found out about the helmet infraction the hard way, receiving a two-game suspension earlier in the season for removing the helmet of Owen Sound’s Kurtis Gabriel.

Petr Mrazek made 26 saves in his first loss since the quarterfinals at the World Juniors.

Sunday, January 15 vs. Belleville

Petr Mrazek had a huge bounce back game with 25 saves, while Jake Cardwell scored twice and Tyler Toffoli recorded his 300th OHL point to help Ottawa coast to a 6-1 win over Belleville, their third win against the Bulls in eight days.

For the second game in a row, the 67’s came out flying.  They didn’t take this lead for granted, however.  Cardwell snuck in from the point to open the scoring at 7:47 of the first period.  Within five minutes, Tyler Toffoli and Shane Prince had opened up the lead to three.  In the second, Dalton Smith, who collected the puck after the second goal to commemorate Toffoli’s 300th point, tipped home a Cody Ceci point shot to give Ottawa a 4-0 advantage.

Cardwell scored his second of the game, after Tyler Graovac made a nifty play to set him up.  Joseph Cramarossa ruined Mrazek’s shutout bid but before the period was up, Mike Cazzola scored his second goal in as many games, giving Ottawa a 6-1 lead that they would carry through the final period for the win.

Mrazek made 37 saves and has only allowed six goals in his last five starts.  At the other end, Charlie Graham stayed in through all six goals and finished the day with 34 stops for the Bulls (22-19-1-0), who fall to third in the division and seventh in the conference.

Final thoughts:

-Ottawa’s new “second” line is clicking perfectly.  Shane Prince had three goals and three assists with his new line.  Mike Cazzola has already added two goals and three assists while John McFarland, who has switched jersey numbers (wore 26 last weekend, 21 this weekend), had an assist of his own.

-Cazzola, as expected, brings a lot of what Cody Lindsay brought last year as an overaged second-line center.  Not a lot of size, but he’s going to finish every check, battle for pucks and create open ice for his linemates.  He scored twice this weekend but look for him to be Ottawa’s primary playmaker from here on out.  Cazzola, by the way, is wearing number 39.

-Rookie Mike Vlajkov continues to improve and receive more icetime, but his solid play is being overshadowed by that of Jake Cardwell.  With or without his two goals, Cardwell was still Ottawa’s best defenceman.  Ottawa’s new forwards are nice to have, but they are getting a lot of scoring from the blueline as well.  Cody Ceci is second to only Dougie Hamilton in points by a defenceman, while Cardwell is tied for tenth.

-Ryan Van Stralen stayed on the bench, but was not playing amongst his regular linemates Tyler Graovac and Steven Janes at the end of the third period.  No word yet as to whether they were simply double-shifting Toffoli or if there was anything with Van Stralen.  Dalton Smith was shaken up after taking a Vlajkov shot to the upper body but didn’t appear to miss a shift.

-The 67’s and Petes will square off again on Thursday in Peterborough, before the 67’s return home to take on the Oshawa Generals.

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