by Alex Quevillon
This past week was one that fans of the 67’s may have wanted to forget, had they not come out with a dominant performance on Sunday. Coming off a 4-3 loss last weekend to the last-place Kingston Frontenacs, things originally went from bad to worse for the Barberpoles, on and off the ice.
On Wednesday, news hit 67’s fans that their team would have to abandon their current arena, the J. Benson Cartage (Civic) Center, and will be playing the following two seasons at Scotiabank Place. Although the announcement was expected and there were very few alternatives, the news left a sour taste in the mouths of a few fans.
There was some very good news, however. In past weeks, I’ve had no choice but to make Shane Prince’s amazing play the main topic of my weekend reviews. It looks like the OHL was taking note, too, naming Shane Prince the Player of the Month for January. He had 12 goals, 12 assists and a +16 rating in the month, and he still isn’t done producing. And sticking it to USA Hockey, can’t forget that.
Thursday, February 9th at Peterborough
The Peterborough Petes hosted the 67’s on Thursday night, wearing their Teddy Bear jerseys to support the Petes for Paediatrics Cancer fundraiser. With this being the fourth different jersey Peterborough has worn against Ottawa this year, it seems to be becoming a trend; Peterborough brings out their alternate jersey designs against us, we bring out ours against Kingston (the poppy jersey and blue barberpoles were debuted against the Fronts).
The 67’s looked down and out towards the end of the second, giving up a 2-0 lead via goals from Nick Ritchie and Stephen Pierog, but a pair of goals from Ryan Van Stralen and Sean Monahan put them right back in the thick of things.
Marc-Anthony Zanetti briefly gave Ottawa a 3-2 lead in the third, but Peterborough’s quick strike offence, seen by Ottawa far too often this season, put the home side up again. Alan Quine and Andrew Yogan scored 24 seconds apart to put Peterborough on top 4-3. With Michael Nishi pulled in the final minute, Mike Vlajkov scored the second of his career to knot it up at fours, the game clock reading exactly 40 seconds.
Despite the 67’s outshooting the Petes 46-21 in regulation, the game headed to overtime, where Peterborough had the only shot of the period and made it count. Lino Martschini has given the Barberpoles fits this year, and put the game away, beating Nishi down low. Nishi made 17 saves in the effort while Andrew D’Agostini kept his team in the game, making 42 stops for the Petes (24-25-3-3).
Friday, February 10th, 2012 vs. Guelph
Believed to be an act of frustration and retaliation to the news of the 67’s move, arsonists attempted to set the current Landsdowne arena on fire late Thursday night. The fire was put out quickly and minimal damage done, so the following night’s game went on as scheduled.
The Guelph Storm, fighting for their playoff lives, wasted no time taking the play to the 67’s. Less than eight minutes into the game, Scott Kosmachuk and Patrick Watling had tallied for the visiting side, scoring on two of Guelph’s first four shots of the game. Tyler Toffoli cut the lead in half with a shorthanded marker, his 39th of the season and 150th of his OHL career. It was short-lived as Francis Menard from nearby Embrun re-gained the two goal cushion before the period was out.
Toffoli started the scoring in the second with his 40th of the year, but less than a minute later, Hunter Garlant came right back with a goal of his own. Fans became restless with a number of inconsistent calls from the officials, and the booing carried into the third period when Garlant added his second of the game just a minute and a half in.
Ottawa came alive in the final five minutes. Remy Giftopoulos tucked in a loose puck and Shane Prince, who had been named player of the month for January, tipped home a Cody Ceci point shot. The two goals, scored 20 seconds apart, brought Ottawa as close as they would get, dropping the inter-conference matchup 5-4.
Petr Mrazek, who had the night off on Thursday, made 18 saves in the losing effort. Garret Sparks was the more called upon goaltender of the night, turning aside 26 shots for the Storm (22-25-2-3), who sit in ninth place for the time being, but hold two games in hand on the Greyhounds.
Sunday, February 12th, 2012 vs. Belleville
Defenceman Sean Callaghan, playing forward to fill the void of injured forwards Dalton Smith and John McFarland, scored the first two goals of his OHL career, but it was Prince who stole the show with a hattrick performance as the 67’s, who were actually outshot on the afternoon 35-33, coasted to a 9-0 win over the Belleville Bulls.
Ottawa also got goal support from Brett Gustavsen (7), Tyler Toffoli (41), Marc-Anthony Zanetti (7) and Sean Monahan (29). Petr Mrazek had to be solid as well as the Bulls actually outshot the 67’s on the day. He made all 35 saves while Jordan Subban was chased nine minutes in, having allowed seven goals on ten shots. Charlie Graham made 17 saves in relief of the OHL’s GAA and Save Percentage leader Subban.
The Bulls (26-25-1-0) are currently in ninth place, holding three games in hand on the eighth place Petes. Belleville has a really solid, exciting, young team, and their wide ice definitely gives them an advantage at home, but you’d be hard pressed to find a 67’s fan that isn’t hoping to see Belleville in the first round. For whatever reason, Ottawa seems to have Belleville’s number this year. Whereas if the 67’s play Oshawa in the first round, it may be a quick playoffs.
The 67’s are now 33-14-5-1, but for the first time since November, have been knocked from the top of the Eastern Conference. A perfect weekend from the Niagara Ice Dogs, including an 11-0 blowout over Mississauga, leaves them one point ahead of the 67’s.
Next up, the 67’s finish their home-and-home with Belleville on Wednesday. On the weekend, they return home and host the Petes and Erie Otters on Friday and Sunday respectively. While they hold a 17-point lead on second in the East, these three games are all crucial wins if Ottawa hopes to win the conference. Niagara isn’t going to give Ottawa anything down the stretch.
Note: I am nearly done a piece on the 67's move to Scotiabank Place, in which I've interviewed fans on their thoughts. If any 67's fans would like to get their opinions heard in it, let me know in the comments within the next couple of days.
by Alex Quevillon
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