March 22, 2008

Outscored but not Outplayed: Oshawa 3 - Ottawa 2

Hit the road to see the opening game of the first round and my first visit to the General Motors Centre in Oshawa. We arrived quite early and went to a local establishment called Riley’s for some pre-game sustenance and refreshment. It’s really close to the arena and clearly a pre-game haunt for some fans. The food was good, plentiful and reasonably priced; I would recommend it as a hockey-night-out starter.

The spots for taking pictures are much more limited than at the Civic Centre. I altered with the Oshawa team photographer at the photographers’ cut-outs in the plexiglass on the goal lines. He took the Oshawa attack for each period.

So, from that fixed vantage point, lacking a radio feed (I could not pick up the local broadcast with my radio), and the game moving too fast for decent note-taking, this is a really abbreviated summary. Click here if you want to see the game sheet.

Both teams started with their top lines: McLean, Tavares and Asselin against McGinn, Couture and Bailey (back in the line up). Valiquette and Cowie were scratches. Courchaine was in net for Ottawa and Neuvirth for Oshawa.

Both teams came out with some jump but Oshawa had the upper hand for a good chunk of the first period including getting the first goal of the game before the game was 2 minutes old. Michael Del Zotto assisted by Kevin Baker and Brett Parnham. Oshawa continued to have more control and after seven minutes of play Oshawa had 6 shots on Courchaine while Ottawa had only 3 on Neuvirth. On the up-side, during the same time Oshawa had a powerplay where the 67s held them to no shots on Adam.

Oshawa came out hitting and Tye McGinn was on the receiving end of a few of them. After about the third one, by Delory that time, I thought he was going to end up as a smear on the boards he’d been run into so often. But he got up and back into the play and tried to lay in a few of his own.

It took a while for Ottawa to start getting their wheels going and by the by the end of the period they managed to get more shots on Neuvirth: 14 for Oshawa and 11 for Ottawa.

The second and third periods were much better efforts by Ottawa. They controlled the puck and started getting more shots through. And while Oshawa continued to hit, Ottawa kept coming up with the puck more often than not. There was one cycling sequence in my corner during the third period that was outstanding. The Oshawa fans around me were getting so frustrated with Oshawa’s complete inability to get the puck. Latta was unrelenting and eventually emerged to get to the front of the crease and a shot on goal. It wasn’t a hard one but it was a shot that Neuvirth had to stop.

But for all their effort in the second period, it was Oshawa that came up with the goal just over the half-way mark. This time it was Dale Mitchell assisted by Brett Parnham and Ryan McGinnis.

It took a couple of power plays in the third period for Ottawa to get on the scoreboard. The first one, an unassisted goal by Captain McGinn came just 40 seconds into the period as Ottawa played out the last 50 seconds of a powerplay earned at the end of the second period (James Delory called for tripping). That made it a one-goal game and Ottawa put the pressure on.

But it didn’t take Oshawa long to get that one back with members of Oshawa’s top line finally cashing in. Brett MacLean beat Adam Courchaine with assists from John Tavares and James DeLory.

Undaunted our intrepid underdogs kept working and were rewarded again on the powerplay when Matthieu Methot scored with assists from Michael Latta and Thomas Kiriakou. There were bodies in my way so I didn’t actually see the goal. But I had a clear shot of the celebration.

For the last half of the period, Ottawa kept up the pressure and the Oshawa fans around me were very tense. In the last minute of play, Ottawa gained control of the puck in the Oshawa end and pulled Courchaine for the extra attacker. Oshawa sprung the puck a couple of times and hoped for the empty-netter to seal the deal. On one, an Ottawa player (I didn’t see who) made a sprawling play and knocked the puck off the stick of the Oshawa player in the Ottawa zone. One the second one it was Demers I believe who intercepted the scoring attempt. It was high excitement right to the very end due to the very hard work of the 67s.

Oshawa takes game 1 with a final score of 3 – 2 and shots on goal 25 – 35 in Ottawa’s favour.

Random Thoughts

  • Didn’t see enough of the game from my vantage point and looking through my camera lens so I’m not sure how to comment on the officiating other than there were two really obvious high sticks that were missed (a big one on Latta early in the second and one on Jamie McGinn in the third). Seeing as there was one official in or nearly in my way most of the time, if I saw them he should have seen them. There was another bizarre call in the second period. It was at the other end of the ice from me so I didn’t see the whole thing other than an Oshawa player went hard into the boards and Radim Ostrcil was close. Not sure if Radim clipped him and caused the spill or what. After the whistle had blown and calm should have set in, Cory Cowick pretty much jumped Ostrcil. Not a “c’mer-I’m gonna-thump-you-for-hurting-my-guy” kinda jump, just a stupid attempt at getting Radim’s attention. In the arena it was announced that Radim was called for unsportsman-like conduct (?) and Cowick was called for holding. The game sheet shows Radim getting nabbed for tripping.
  • While Ottawa didn’t hit as hard and as often as Oshawa, they dished out some good hits some of which drew admiring comments from the folks around me (apparently hitting is very highly regarded in this rink based on the comments I heard). Even Logan threw in a few (!).
  • At the beginning of the second period I noticed that all the players on the bench leaned forward over the boards for the faceoff. As soon as the puck dropped, they sat back on the bench. Have no idea what that was about. Didn't notice it (nor did I look for it) at the beginning of the third period.

  • The GMC is a nice arena, a good size for this city. Attendance was over 5000 which looked to be pretty much capacity and the fans were lively. The plexiglass however is awful for photography.
  • Everyone was really friendly. Lots of smiles, casual conversation, polite. It seems like a great rink.
  • Saw someone wearing a Chris Hulit jersey.
  • There were a few Ottawa 67s fans in the rink and they made their presence known too cheering on the 67s.
  • A couple of Kiriakou-jersey wearing folks were sitting behind me. On the way out I asked one if she knew Thomas. Just a little – she’s his mother. I let her know that he’s the favorite of a number of fans I know.
  • Oshawa is definitely beatable. If Ottawa keeps up with the play we saw last night, they are going to win some games. Looking forward to the game here on Tuesday.
More pictures – click on any picture in the blog to see a larger image

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