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67's Weekend Homestand Review vs. PBO & ERIE

by Alex Quevillon
What’s next for Ottawa’s J. Benson Cartage Center? I’m afraid I don’t want to know. After arsonists tried to set the building on fire last weekend, this weekend saw a complete opposite problem. The arena’s often unreliable ceiling began leaking, ruining the ice and postponing Friday night’s scheduled game. Instead, the Ottawa 67’s and Peterborough Petes had to push back their matchup to Saturday afternoon

Friday, February 17th...Saturday, February 18th vs. Peterborough

After a Niagara Ice Dogs win on Friday, the 67's needed a win in their re-sheduled game with Peterborough to move back into first in the conference. The Petes, fighting to stay in the Eastern playoff race, had other plants, coming from behind to beat the 67's 4-3 on Saturday. Announced attendance was over 6,000, but clearly, the game was only played infront of maybe 2,000 fans, and that's being generous.

An hour before puck drop, the roof continued dripping just inside the Peterborough blueline and also in assorted spots in the stands. Owner Jeff Hunt met with assorted league officials at center ice at the conclusion of the pre-game warmup, and they decided that it would be game on.

The first 20 minutes felt like a scrimmage. The quiet crowd, poor ice quality and choppy play didn't feel much like a Major Junior game. Just 15 seconds in, Tyler Toffoli blocked a point shot and went in all alone, only to lose the puck on the poor ice. Toffoli had a second breakaway chance, but was hauled down and narrowly missed the net on the ensuing penalty shot.

There may not have been any scoring in the first period at all if it wasn't for 4-on-4 play. Michal Cajkovsky, Shane Prince and Mike Cazzola put together a perfect passing play, setting up Cody Ceci's 12th goal of the season. Later in the period, during another 4-on-4 opportunity, it was Ceci's turn to set up Prince, who put Ottawa ahead by two. Between the two goals, rare combatant Remy Giftopoulos dropped the gloves and dropped Peterborough's Dylan Fitze with a big right hand. Ottawa seemed in control of all aspects of the game after two.

Toffoli made up for his missed opportunities, opening the scoring in the second period and potting his 43rd goal of the season off of a faceoff in the Peterborough zone. But a pair of strange bounces would send the game downhill for the home side.

Derek Mathers' blast from the point hit both posts and went in off of Petr Mrazek's blocker, giving the tough guy seven goals on the year and getting Peterborough on the board. Just 40 seconds later, Andrew Yogan beat Mrazek to a loose puck and went in all alone on the empty net, tapping it in to bring the Petes within one goal.

Nick Ritchie tied the game just a minute and fourty seconds into the third, setting the stage for Yogan to walk into the Ottawa zone and place a backhander by Mrazek with just five minutes to play, completing the comeback and deflating the 67's. Toffoli tipped a Ceci shot off the post, but that's as close as the 67's would get. Mike Morrison made 29 saves for the Petes (25-26-3-3), who move into 7th in the Eastern Conference and, if the season ended today, would be Ottawa's first round playoff opponent.

Niagara won 3-0 in Sault Ste. Marie, pulling three points ahead of Ottawa at the end of the night.

Sunday, February 19th vs. Erie

Despite being shorthanded nine times on the afternoon and having goaltender Michael Nishi playing in a puddle on the ice for the first period, the 67's completely shut down the last-place Erie Otters in a 6-1 blowout.

Nicholas Foglia tipped home a shot from Marc-Anthony Zanetti to give Ottawa the lead, and Shane Prince and Cody Ceci added first period goals for the second day in a row. Jake Evans scored to make it 3-1, eerily (ERIEly if you will) similiar to the game a day before. But Dalton Smith, Tyler Toffoli and Ryan Van Stralen all scored in the final 21 minutes to cement a 6-1 win.

Mike Cazzola, acquired from Erie for a package of draft picks in the first week of January, was held off the scoresheet despite playing on a newly formed line with Prince and Toffoli for most of the day. With Smith's return, he re-joined his linemates from the beginning of the year, Steven Janes and Tyler Graovac, as the team's top line.

Erie netminder Devin Williams, who immensely helped the 67's on Wednesday as he made 62 saves to defeat the Niagara Ice Dogs, didn't have the same heroics in him tonight, but he still made 41 saves on the day. Yes, over 100 saves in two games, at the age of 16. Nishi may be replaced by Petr Mrazek tomorrow, but he made 36 saves to preserve the win.

After defeating the 10th place team in the West, Ottawa will make the quick bus ride to Kingston to take on the 10th place team in the East, the rival Kingston Frontenacs who have their number as of late. Next weekend, the league's top two scorers will face one another, as Toffoli and the 67's welcome Tanner Pearson's Barrie Colts. The top ranked team in the CHL pays a visit a week from today, as the London Knights have drawn a near sellout crowd in Ottawa already (Ottawa has one sellout in the last two seasons).

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