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So Far, So Good; 67's Look To Keep Up Pace in 2012

by Alex Quevillon

The OHL season is more than halfway completed and the Ottawa 67’s (22-10-4-1) start the 2012 fiscal year tied for first place in the Eastern Conference.  With that being said, the New Year and the second half will be the most difficult and trying portion of the season as the 67’s try to solidify themselves as true contenders.  Ottawa center Tyler Graovac, who has missed 18 games due to mononucleosis this season, made the team’s goal quite clear via Twitter:

TyGraovac19 Tyler Graovac
Ottawa vs Kingston 2pm. New years resolution: Winning streak, Mem cup. Let's start today!

Okay, so perhaps they didn’t get off to the New Year’s start that they wanted.  Ottawa got 32 saves from Michael Nishi and goals from Sean Monahan (23) and Ben Dubois (8) but fell to divisional rival Kingston Frontenacs.  Kingston shut down Ottawa’s powerplay four times on Sunday afternoon and Igor Bobkov stopped a Shane Prince penalty shot to put an exclamation point on the win.

On Friday night, Nishi recorded his first OHL shutout in a 2-0 win over the Peterborough Petes.  Prince had the winning goal while Dalton Smith added an empty netter.  The win, however, was overshadowed by that day’s performance from 67’s goaltender Petr Mrazek at the World Under-20 Championships in Alberta.  Mrazek made 53 saves against Team USA and nearly scored an empty net goal for the Czechs, mixed in with numerous exuberant celebrations.  For a couple of hours, Mrazek was a hero on national television, and Ottawa fans responded with a loud ovation for their absent goaltender during a stoppage in play.

It appears as though the goaltending position should be set the rest of the way.  Between Nishi’s shutout, Mrazek’s amazing performance thus far at the World Juniors and Shayne Campbell expected to be back by February, Ottawa has a trio of capable goaltenders and it is highly likely that all three will remain with the team through next Tuesday’s trade deadline.

If head coach and general manager Chris Byrne wants to become a buyer in the next week, it will be to upgrade at the right wing and center positions most likely.  Ottawa only has two natural right wingers (Tyler Toffoli and Steven Janes), and three centers (Monahan, Graovac and Nicholas Foglia). 

Ottawa’s goal has remained the same since day one, to be a serious contender.  It was a tough blow when they realized that center Ryan Martindale would not be coming back, and that he would be spending the year in the Edmonton Oilers organization. 

Instead, the 67’s acquired Daniel Broussard from the Sarnia Sting to use up their final overaged spot and improve their already deep defence.  Monahan has made a seamless transition to Ottawa’s top line with Toffoli and Prince, but having another center to play on one of the top two lines and spread out the scoring a little more would help immensely. 

Regardless, the next week should be fun to follow as the 67’s may or may not make deals to bolster their roster.  And the rest of the season should be fun to watch as well.  Fans in Ottawa are hoping that this year’s squad will be able to perform in the playoffs after being swept by the Sudbury Wolves last season. 

With that being said, the next few months will not be an easy ride.  The 67’s are tied for first in the Eastern Conference with the Brampton Battalion.  Three Western Conference teams, the London Knights, Kitchener Rangers, and Ottawa’s opponent in the 2002 OHL finals, the Plymouth Whalers, are also ahead of the 67’s and Battalion in the standings.  The road will only get tougher from here.  But whether or not this team’s roster is altered or remains intact, the Ottawa 67’s have one ambition; to be a championship team.

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