December 31, 2005

Sorry about that, Chief… Missed it by that much

I’m sure that many of you are too young to know that line. Oh well. A TV classic that you young folks missed. None of the current crop of reality-bumph comes close.

Hope everyone is enjoying the holiday season. Sorry for no report for the Kingston game; I had great tickets to the Senators-Hurricanes game which I couldn’t pass up (corporate box in the 100-level -- sweet!). Boy, when they’re on their game, it is something to watch. Once they got out of the first period (thanks to the Dominator), there was no stopping them. Had a grand time.
Anyway, to our business at hand…..

Going into tonight’s game, Ottawa was still in 7th place in the conference with 36 points with the Belleville Bulls hot on their heels just one point back and 2 games in hand. John Hughes and Matt Beleskey each had four points to pace the Belleville Bulls to a 5-2 victory over the Oshawa Generals on Wednesday night while Ottawa was in winning form over the Kingston Frontenac.

Scratches for Ottawa tonight were Pat Campbell, Brent Mackie, Shea Kewin and of course Logan Couture who is shooting up the place in the under-17 tournament. Jordan Gallea suited up for tonight’s game.

On to our summary:

First Period: Ottawa won the first face-off but Belleville took over from there for the first half. It took about 61/2 minutes for Ottawa to register its first shot on goal. I wasn’t keeping track but it seemed that Belleville was winning most of the face-offs and battles along the boards. But something lit a fire under the boys at about the halfway mark and the play got faster and more physical. Ottawa burned off both penalties (Bickel at 1:44 for delay of game (puck over the glass) and Gallea at 13.23 for cross checking). Belleville played like perfect gentlemen thus avoiding any feel-shame-go-free episodes. The period ended without goals. Shots on goal were 6 – 14 for Belleville.

Second Period: This period was a little more exciting but it ended badly for our boys. We had 2 excellent scoring chances right at the top of the period. I didn’t see who took the shot but Laland just got his toe on it to deflect it into the corner. Then someone passed it into the crease but the lurking Barber Pole wasn’t able to get his stick on it for a clear, guaranteed score. Chris Hulit was back in the lineup but he took hit early in the period that appeared to aggravate his injury – he got up slowly and it looked like he was in pain. But it didn’t stop him from having a good night in my opinion. I like Chris a lot – I find that he’s an exciting player to watch and he creates opportunities.

Laland kept him team in the game this period making some pretty good saves on hard shots and through traffic.

Ottawa finally got on the score board 5:44 into the period when, in a flurry of activity in front of Laland, the puck popped free right in front of Pat Daley who was parked at the corner of the crease. He took advantage of the opportunity and potted the first goal of the game.

The team continued to work and Danny made some nice saves but, despite all this hard work (cue the ominous music) bad things happened. It all started when, with 3 minutes to go, for no acceptable reason, Jacob Voyta missed picking up an easy puck backing up to his own blue line. The next three goals by Belleville were actually nice goals. Very nice goals. One would even say pretty. Danny didn’t stand a chance. (We sit at the visitor’s end and had a pretty good view of them). T hese goals, in my inexpert opinion, all stemmed from the single miscue by Mr Voyta (we should put an orange jersey on this guy). The first goal was by Matt Beleskey at the 17:00 mark from a feed by John Hughes (see notes at the beginning of the blog to see why these are a couple of dangerous guys). The momentum definitely changed. Pat Ouellette took a boarding penalty seventeen seconds later. Ottawa was doing a pretty darn good job of killing the penalty (actually got a couple of short-handed shots on goal) and then another terrible thing happened. Ottawa was pressing in the Belleville zone (short handed) and the play shifted just as Ottawa was going for a line change. Ottawa got tagged with too many men on the ice at 18:25. Mr Daley represented the bench in the penalty box. This gave Belleville the two-man advantage for almost a minute of which they took advantage without a moment’s hesitation. Well actually about 32 seconds of hesitation if anyone is counting. Scott Baker got the goal with assists from John Hughes (sounding familiar?) and Matt Kelly. That got Pat Ouellette out of the feel-shame-go-free spa. Then, with one second to go in the period, still with the man advantage, Andrew Self put it home with the help of Cory Tanaka and Matt Kelly. Three goals in three minutes – the third one with one second left. Man this is not nice if you’re a 67s fan. But pretty darn exciting if you’re a Bulls fan. The second period ended with the Bulls up by 2, a whole lotta momentum, no penalties, and still leading shots on goal: 21 – 29.

Third Period: I didn’t have a good feeling going into this period but, as Dave Schreiber says, the only predictable thing about junior hockey is that it’s unpredictable. And our boys wasted no time showing us just how true this is. Before the first two minutes were up, Robbie Lawrance fired a shot from the point that Laland mishandled and the puck found its way home. Pat Ouellette got the assist. A mere 34 seconds later, Bickel tied it with a pretty feed from Chris Hulit (who you will recall is hurtin’). We’re tied and all things are possible! The crowd goes wild! Voyta took a stupid penalty in the first half but the team burned it off. Ottawa played aggressively and put 12 shots on Laland while the Bulls were only able to generate 6. The game ended in a tie and total shots on goal: 36 – 38 for Belleville.

OT: Coach started with Hulit, Talbot, Joslin and Beard. It was exciting end-to-end play with great chances by both teams. However, just as the announcer mentioned the last minute of play, John Hughes ended the game with the help of Ryan Berard. Final shots on goal: 38 – 36 for Ottawa.

Thoughts: Could-a-been, would-a-been, should-a-been. This was a very winnable game for the 67s. They played well, I liked most of their defense, they had lots of scoring opportunities and Danny did his job. I truly believe the pivotal point was when Voyta missed the puck. He did not have a good game at all as he made other dumb defensive moves (or lack thereof). One has to be careful about placing the results (good or bad) on one player but …. I know this is a development league which is why it was interesting to watch Jordan Gallea play but Voyta has had more chance to develop and it’s not looking good. T he fact that he did not make the Czech junior team may be telling. He did not belong on the top line and Kilrea finally benched him late in the third period – he didn’t hit the ice for the last 7 or so shifts in regulation and nothing in OT. This may not be one of Kilrea’s best diamond-in-the-rough projects.

Coach played with his lines again. On the top line he kept the core of Hulit, Talbot and Bickel but played with the other two spots. Radulay had some time, as did Reid, Beard, and Joslin.

PK teams were combinations of Hulit, Joslin, Beard, Talbot, McGinn, Reid, Kiriakou, with cameo appearances by Voyta (hunh?) and Alphonso.

Chris Hulit took more hits and you could tell by the end that he was in pain. He was on the ice for the OT goal and was clearly running on fumes. Talbot was also pretty pooped. It would be nice to know the minutes on ice for these guys. The outcome might have been different if they had had the chance to get off the ice about 30 seconds sooner. Alphonso also re-injured his knee in the game. Oh no! This guy has spunk!

This was a pretty physical game but the refereeing looked suspiciously like last year. This is not a gripe that Ottawa had 5 penalties while Belleville only had one (!). Both teams got away with a bunch of stuff. It’s just that one would not come close to suggesting that this was a closely called game. It was in VAST contrast with what’s happening at the world juniors.

We slip to 8th spot in the conference with this game but I think these guys will come on strong in the second half of the season. Let’s wait and see what Kilrea has up his sleeve in the trades department.

Final Score: 3 – 4 for Belleville in OT

Game Stars:

First Star: John Hughes (Belleville – goal and two assists)
Second Star: Jamie McGinn (one assist and very busy)
Third Star: Matt Beleskey (Belleville - 1 goal)

Have a happy and safe slide into 2006!

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