February 03, 2007

2000 Junior Hockey Games! Now that’s a Road Warrior!!

Today was Brian Kilrea's 2000th game behind the bench of the Ottawa 67s. In 30 years. In the OHL. Where from Ottawa it’s 785 km to Sault Ste Marie, 547 km to Saginaw, 540km to Erie and 481km to Sudbury (at least according to Google Maps). That’s a whole lotta time on the buses and staying in strange towns. With someone else’s teenage boys. Intestinally active, hormonally crazy, self-important teenage boys. Ya really gotta love your job to keep doing it that long. God bless you Brian!

Tonight there was a special recognition befitting this impressive milestone. It started with a really nice video with Scotty Bowman, Ron McLean, Don Cherry and others sending their good wishes. The players from both teams lined up at their respective blue lines to watch it. Killer came to centre ice to a long and loud standing ovation. He was joined by Don Cherry (suitably attired in something that wasn’t neon or otherwise attracting an excessive amount of attention), Ron McLean, David Branch and Ottawa Mayer Larry O’Brien. Then a number of players from Killer’s 1974 team came on ice. The two captains took this momentous ceremonial face off and there was much handshaking all around. It was done tastefully, quickly and the game was underway ahead of schedule. Well done Ottawa 67s! I hope they post it on their website.

Toronto player notes: Matt Russo, Byron Elliott, Jeff Barletta and Matt Piva. Wayne Savage started in net.

Ottawa player notes: scratch Julian Cimadamore, Sean Ryan and Mathieu Methot. Lukas Flueler started in goal.

Lines for tonight: I didn’t keep track throughout the game; for a while (in the first period anyway) McGinn and Liscomb were being double shifted. But basically it looked sorta like:
McGinn, Couture, Lahey
Liscomb, Cowie, Bailey
McGinn/Liscomb, Kiriakou, Alphonso
Ribeiro, Lindsay, Nesbitt

Defensive pairings: Joslin-Vojta, Grimaldi – Beard, Cuma - Demers

Liscomb, Cowie and Bailey were the starting line up but they were barely off the ice when, at 1:02 into the game, Logan Couture scored his 16th of the year on the game’s first shot on goal. Both Crazy-8 buddies notched the assists. It started with a steal in the corner and ended with a nice feed to Logan who was all alone at the corner of the crease. Just over two minutes later, it was Jamie McGinn who was in the right spot at the right moment to pick up the rebound and get it past goalie Wayne Savage. After 4 minutes and 4 shots on goal, Ottawa was up by 2. Yikes, was there a blowout in the making?? It took almost 5 minutes before Toronto managed to get a shot on Flueler. He must have been dozing off all alone back there. But then Toronto slowly started pressing more – they were doing reasonably well on the forecheck (their defense hung their goalie out on the previous goals). Then it started getting a bit more physical and the zebras were letting a lot go. Then Ottawa started getting penalties – mostly because they were getting lazy. Liscomb, Grimaldi and Lahey each took a turn to feel-shame-go-free. Ottawa did a pretty good job most of the time during these various PKs and even managed to get dangerous with potential short-handed goals (which they couldn’t actually score). Toronto slowly built up confidence (Savage made some savage saves!!) and pressure and Ottawa was literally saved by the horn as Toronto managed to get one past Lukas on the wrap-around just after the buzzer sounded to end the period.

Shots after the first period: 15 – 13 for Ottawa (at one point it was 12 – 6)

Matt Lahey still had 27 seconds left to serve in his tripping penalty at the start of the second period. Logan won the face off and he and his specialty team buddies McGinn, Vojta and Joslin easily ran out the clock. Shortly thereafter Jamie McGinn scored his second of the night (his 31st of the season) when he again found himself at the right spot at the right time. Couture and Lahey got the assists. Ottawa was now up 3 – 0. And then it started to slowly fizzle. The 67s didn’t look like they had any energy or organization. Five minutes after Ottawa took the 3 – 0 lead, Toronto’s Cassidy Preston lit a little spark with his 8th goal of the season when he lifted a rebound high into the net for Toronto’s first goal of the night. This was after steadily building pressure and checking aggressively and a breakdown in the Ottawa defense that left him all alone. Then the beginning of a long turning point. It started with Toronto getting three penalties pretty much in a row. Ottawa not only didn’t manage to convert any of them, they didn’t even get a shot on net. I didn’t take an exact time check but I would hazard a guess that neither team got a shot on net in the last 8 or 9 minutes of the game. That was a great boost for Toronto who ranked about 19th in the league in the PK coming into the game. The next bend in the turn came when, behind the play in the dying seconds of the period, Aaron Alphonso caught Kaspers Daugavins with a high stick. Kaspers hit the ice and, to Aaron’s credit, it looked like he was genuinely conflicted between checking that the guy was OK and contributing to the ongoing play. The ref finally whistled the play dead and after some consultation with the other men-in-stripes, assessed Aaron with the 4 minute double minor as the contact drew blood.

After 40 minutes Ottawa was still up by two (3 – 1) with SOGs: 24 – 17 in Ottawa’s favour.

So once again, Ottawa started the period down a man. This time for 3:47. They were doing a pretty good job of killing it off but with just 22 seconds left in the first half of the penalty, Matt Caria went top shelf and notched his 32nd goal of the year (he is 17th in the league in points thus far – ahead of any 67, on a team that is at the bottom of the league). Then Jesse Messier tied it up on the back half of the penalty. The tide had indeed turned and Toronto was definitely back in this game. And they played to win for the rest of the period despite taking a few penalties and having to fight off a 5-on-3 disadvantage for 1:19. Toronto played really well in front of their guy. But it was Flueler who saved the day when a Toronto player got a breakaway in the dying seconds of the game. You could hear the folks around me groaning “oh no!!. And then Lukas did what he is supposed to do – stop the darn thing.

Regulation ended in a tie with shots on goal 38 – 23 for Ottawa. Wayne Savage made the first saves and his defensive buddies cleared the rebounds to keep the game tied.

I have to admit that I didn’t have much confidence going into OT. Toronto definitely had the momentum and the better energy. Toronto’s Darrell Simich was tagged for tripping Liscomb on what looked like a certain goal. Given Ottawa’s rather pathetic performance on the PP thus far, it was a good penalty to take. And Toronto managed to fight it off. Ottawa clearly was putting the pressure on Toronto as the play was pretty much all in the Toronto zone for the OT period. Then Kaspars Daugavins was called for putting the puck over the glass with just under two minutes left in the OT period. Not a problem, right? HA! On a really great second effort by Derek Joslin to keep the puck onside, he managed to pass it to Jakub Vojta in the deep slot and he let ‘er rip. It caught the cross bar on the inside and ended the game! With about a minute and a half left in the period. There was some celebrating by the guys for that one!

So the team delivered an overtime win for Killer’s 2000th game. Score 4 – 3 with final SOGs 46 – 24.

Stars for the game:

1. Jamie McGinn (2 goals and an assist)
2. Matt Caria (Toronto goal and an assist)
3. Logan Couture (goal and an assist)

Hardest working 67: Jakub Vojta with the game winning goal in the overtime period and pretty solid play on the blue line.

Random Thoughts:

  • Ottawa beat the last team in the conference!!! Woo hoo!! I’m not sure whether Toronto played that well or Ottawa played that poorly (likely a bit of both). Toronto’s goalie has to be given some serious credit for this even being close. It wasn' t pretty but it was a win.
  • Speaking of goalies, Lukas seems to have had an epiphany since returning from the Swiss national junior team. He didn’t see any ice time during that tournament but something got him going. He had some outstanding saves tonight. Well done kid – keep it up!
  • I took some pictures tonight but they didn’t turn out well enough for posting. Hopefully Sid had better luck.
  • Nice to feel the energy in the arena again. Was missing it. Need to get the cheering going again. The celebration of Killer’s milestone reminded me of what a really good thing we have going here in the National Capital Region: 2 major junior teams, lots of CHL hockey and an NHL team. This truly is Hockey Country!!
  • Speaking of energy, two of those dancing fools during the YMCA song were our nephew and one of this his room mates. 4th year university students. What else is there to say? Other than I wish I were young again so that making a bigger fool of myself in public wouldn’t be a career-limiting move.
  • What can you say about our power play other than….yechh! No power and too much play. Needs some attention (like Brian needs me or anyone else to point that out).

    The teams do this all again tomorrow at Scotia Bank Place. I hope the boys don’t celebrate the win too much tonight – Toronto will not be a pushover tomorrow either. And I am counting on the 67s to set some Ottawa winning karma in the arena tomorrow for the Leafs – Sens game. A double header Toronto – Ottawa series tomorrow at SBP. Have fun and cheer loud to those Ottawa fans attending either of those games. For those truly fanatic fans who are attending both – I am not worthy to wash your jerseys.

    See you all on Sunday when we see the return of our erstwhile co-captain and his Owen Sound Attack ( who lost tonight to a depleted Kingston team that didn’t have their coach behind the bench either).

    Cheers and to Killer – hope you really enjoyed your cigar and beers tonight. You certainly have earned them. Best wishes for continued longevity and success.

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