March 17, 2007

Ottawa wins over Oshawa 7 – 4 and Other Important Milestones

Last weekend of the regular season and both teams have something to play for. Oshawa came in looking to lock down their hold on 4th in the conference for home ice advantage. Also, teenage hockey phenom John Tavares was 1 goal shy of The Great One’s record for the most goals scored in a year by a 16 year old. Ottawa came into tonight’s game wounded after a 6 – 1 beating by Belleville in Belleville on Wednesday. They were playing (hopefully) for pride and with an outside chance of moving into 6th place with a string of wins this weekend.

Oshawa player notes: not dressing were Trevor Koverko, Tyler Taylor, Marco Franchini, Murray Free, Kody Musselman and Billy Siekris. Overager Loic Lacasse started in net. Former 67s Shea Kewin was in tonight’s lineup.

Ottawa player notes: Matt McDougall, Matt Lahey, Jordan Gallea and Matt Ribeiro didn’t dress. Brady Morrison got the call between the pipes.

Lines for tonight:
McGinn, Couture, Liscomb / Alphonso in the third
Methot, Kiriakou, Bailey
Cuma (yes Cuma!)/ Liscomb, Cowie, Alphonso
Lindsay, Cimadamore, Nesbitt

Defensive pairings: Joslin - Vojta, Grimaldi – Beard, Demers – Ryan/Cuma with some changes in the third when Cuma returned to the blue line.

The game started with a two great young hockey players facing off at centre ice. Logan Couture and John Tavares took the opening face off as Killer decided to go head to head matching their top line with his. Ottawa got its first PP opportunity early in the period when ‘Shwa’s Cal Clutterbuck was called for tripping. Just 13 seconds into the man advantage, Jamie McGinn scored his 40th goal of the year as he dangled the puck to the net and roofed it past Lacasse. Linemates Couture and Alphonso got the assists and Ottawa was off to an early lead. But not for long. Just 36 seconds later John Tavares got behind the Ottawa defenders to score on a rebound and tie the game and tie Wayne Gretsky’s record for goals scored in a year by a 16 year old – 70.

While the milestone was impressive, it didn’t impress the 67s enough to lose sight of the objective – win the game. On the very next power play, with James DeLory off for boarding, Jamie McGinn notched his 41st goal and his second of the night when he picked up Logan’s rebound and again roofed it past Lacasse to restore Ottawa’s lead.

Then it was Ottawa’s turn to kill the power play – against the team with the league’s 6th best PP when Jakub Vojta was called for checking Brett MacLean from behind. The PK units of Cowie, Kiriakou, Ryan, Joslin and McGinn, Couture, Beard, Grimaldi were able limit Oshawa’s chances to only two shots which Brady handled with ease.

At the 8:41 mark of the period, the rookie line of Lindsay, Cimadamore and Nesbitt made their mark when Thomas Nesbitt scored his 7th goal of his OHL career. Lindsay and Cimadamore assisted on the goal. This gave Ottawa a 3 – 1 lead.

And the scoring wasn’t done. With about 8 minutes left in the period, Ottawa got its third power play when Brett Parnham was called for tripping in the Oshawa offensive zone. Just like the previous two power plays, Ottawa took advantage and Jamie McGinn got the hat trick with the assists going to captain Joslin and who else – Logan Couture.

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But even a 3-goal lead is not safe in Junior hockey and certainly not with a team with the scoring power of Oshawa. Oshawa got back in the game by first killing an Ottawa 2-minute 5-on-3 advantage. Oshawa players James DeLory (elbowing) and Igor Gongalsky (roughing) were sent to cool their heels as a result of their actions in the same play. Ottawa only managed to get 4 shots on Lacasse during the 2-man advantage, one of which was a great scoring chance by McGinn that was denied by a fast glove save. This gave Oshawa some life. Then with Joslin off serving Ottawa’s only second penalty of the game, Peter Aston scored a softie on Brady to get Oshawa back in the game as the period wound down.

After the first 20, the score was 4 – 2 for Ottawa and shots were 20 – 16 for Ottawa but Oshawa went to the dressing room with hope and a bit of momentum.

Ottawa didn’t quite have the same jump starting the second period as opposed to Oshawa’s renewed energy. In fact, Ottawa didn’t get its first shot on Lacasse until they were on the penalty kill while Cimadamore was off for tripping about 5 minutes into the period. Oshawa also managed a shot during the advantage but they didn’t score. Ottawa finally woke up and started fore checking again. But for all their effort, it was Oshawa that got the goals.

John Tavares did it! He broke the record!

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It wasn’t pretty but who cares. He was in the right spot at the right time to pick up the rebound and make some history. The crowd of 9000+ gave him a standing ovation in recognition of this important milestone in this young man’s hockey career. Props to the Ottawa fans - they were quick and loud in showing their appreciation of his skill and this milestone. For his part, John graciously acknowledged the crowd’s reaction.

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All of this must have given the Generals additional lift that they rode to tie up the game. Late in the period, with 38 seconds left in a Sean Ryan penalty for interference, Cal Clutterbuck redirected the puck past Brady to tie up the game. Ottawa had its only PP opportunity very late in the period but were only able to manage one shot on goal that didn’t make it past the goalie.

So after the second period it was tied at 4 (for the good guys) with Ottawa having the slight edge on shots: 28 – 26.

OK – this game was either team’s game for the taking. So who was going to show up in the third for the 67s. Killer mixed up his lines a bit going into this frame. Cuma was moved back to defense, Alphonso was moved to the top line and Liscomb anchored the third line.

Ottawa served notice with a great scoring chance when Couture fed Alphonso who was parked on Lacasse’s doorstep. Lacasse equally served notice with the save. Message: both teams were playing to win. As if we needed any more convincing of Logan’s commitment, we saw yet another example of how he does lots of little things that add up to good stuff. I didn’t see who attempted the long pass to him but in an effort to stave off an icing call (the pass was too far in front of him) he made the diving reach to get his stick on the puck in the offensive zone. It didn’t directly result in a goal or save a goal but it did cancel the need for a faceoff back in the Ottawa zone. The little things. Attention to detail. It matters.

And good things do indeed get rewarded. With the first 5 minutes of this tied game under their collective belts, Derek Joslin fired the puck from the point and Logan Couture scored his 24th goal of the year (and the game winning goal) by tipping it past Lacasse to give Ottawa the lead.

Then Ottawa started getting into penalty trouble. This is not good against a team that really wants the points and has demonstrated a pretty good record of taking advantage of the advantage. First Vojta was tagged for tripping – Oshawa didn’t get any shots on Brady while Kiriakou managed to get one on Lacasse. Then Jason Bailey was called for elbowing – Oshawa managed 4 shots on Brady all of which he stopped. Then it was Jason again for interference – but before Oshawa could mount an effective offense, Oshawa’s Brett MacLean was called for interference which resulted in 4-on-4 play until Ottawa got the brief power play.

In what was described by The Voice (Team 1200’s Dave Schreiber) as the play of the game, Tyler Cuma denied Tavares the hat trick and most importantly, the tying goal when he ambushed Tavares with a diving defensive play with about 3 minutes left in the period. If left unattended, it is highly likely that Tavares would have scored. Good work Tyler!!

Then Brett Liscomb gave Ottawa some needed breathing room on a goal from an impossible angle with just over two minutes left to play. I still don’t know how it happened but it started with Brett appearing to be the last 67s on the ice (line change). He fired it towards the goal from the corner and it sorta looked like Lacasse might have carried the puck over the line himself. Don’t care how it happened; Ottawa got the insurance goal.

So this gave Ottawa a 6 – 4 lead with around 2 minutes left in the game. NATCHOS!!! I was chatting with the young Oshawa fans in front of me and offering them my ticket stubs so they could score the natchos (for some reason I think the deal is only for season ticket holders). While I’m trying to explain this to the accompanying adult, people around me erupt into cheers. While I wasn’t looking, Mathieu Methot put the exclamation point on the game with his 21st goal of the season.

The last minute and a half ended with both teams trying to make various points with the other given that they will meet again tomorrow afternoon. A few elbows, a couple of face washes and some unsportsmanlike conduct wrapped up the game.

The let’s-play-good-hockey-for-most-of-the-game 67s showed up and persevered for a 7 – 4 win over the Oshawa Generals.

Stars for the game:

1. Jamie McGinn (3 goals and an assist)
2. Logan Couture (game winning goal and 3 assists)
3. John Tavares (2 goals, 2 assists and his own record for goals in year by a 16 year old)

Team 1200 Hardest working 67: Captain Derek Joslin with 3 assists

Random Thoughts:

  • Where to begin….I really enjoyed tonight’s game. Much more than I enjoyed the Sens – Islanders game last night (was there – yes we won but the first period was a snoozer – eech!). Was glad to witness a piece of OHL/CHL history with young Tavares’ record tying and breaking goals (even if they were against MY team). Was pleased as punch to FINALLY throw my hat trick hat onto the ice for Jamie’s outstanding performance (note to other 67s fans – why was the ice not LITTERED with hats???).

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  • Was impressed all to heck with Ottawa’s ability to play through the hype and get the two points. Really enjoyed seeing players play hard, with hits ‘n all but not play dirty. It was aggressive with a suitable amount of chippyness but somehow respectful. Hard to explain but it seemed to me that we saw two teams play hard that were lead by coaches who are competitive gentlemen. Tricky balance in my books.
  • I really like our PK units – they do a good job. I am a huge Kiriakou fan.
  • Joe Grimaldi had another very good game in my books. He played aggressive yet stayed out of trouble. Yes I am a fan.
  • Brady Morrison also had a very good game….made some awesome saves. Nothing like a good goalie as your last defence.
  • The crew played well in front of their goalie too.
  • The rookie line played really well tonight and got rewarded with some decent ice time by my reckoning. They certainly did not play like they were in awe of anyone on the ice. Checked hard, worked for control and stood up to all takers. Well done!
  • How to get this all the time? A question a venerate veteran like Kilrea must ask all the time.
  • Meanwhile, back at the ranch of life, the Ottawa 67s announced their nominees for the various OHL academic awards: our nominee for the Ivan Tennant Memorial Award as the OHL's Top Academic High School Player is Tyler Cuma; our nominee for the Roger Neilson Memorial Award as the OHL's Top Academic College or University Player is Brady Morrison, and Tyler Cuma is our nominee for the Bobby Smith Trophy which is presented to the OHL Scholastic Player of the year who best combines high standards of play and academic excellence. The trophy is in honour of Bobby Smith, the former Ottawa 67’s star who exhibited a standard of excellence in both of these areas. Congratulations gentlemen for earning your team’s recognition of your excellence in more than just hockey. As previously noted in my blogs, Tyler was also a member of Team Ontario’s gold medal hockey team in the Canada Winter Games that were played in Whitehorse earlier this month.
  • Finally, want to acknowledge all these young men and the people around them who have to deal with the surreal aspect of being elite athletes in a sport that obsesses us as Canadians (hockey is OUR game and Ottawa is HOCKEY COUNTRY!!). To be so young, so blessed with skill and keep a level head is truly remarkable. It is impressive to see the grace with which many of these people accept and adapt to the roles they have fallen into through the love of their sport.
  • The weather is closing in on us tonight. Possibility of 10 - 15 cm of snow tonight with more tomorrow. Glad neither of the two teams are travelling tonight. I can imagin that among the anxieties of parents of major junior hockey players is the anxiety that goes with all that travel. There are at least 40 or so young folks who are off the road in this late winter weather.

So, the 67s still have a chance to play for something important - 6th spot and meeting the IceDogs rather than the Bulls in the first round. Another win over Oshawa tomorow would set up a really interesting game against Sudbury on Sunday. But let's take this one shift, one period, one game at a time. Win the small battles and the big ones should follow.

Last weekend of the regular season - let's see you at the Civic Centre this weekend!

Go 67s Go!!

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