March 19, 2011

67's are East Division Champs with Their 4-3 Win

First place in the East Division and second seed in the Eastern Conference were on the line in Friday's game. The Ottawa 67's started with a short bench and finished with an even shorter one but they gutted out this important win.

Click here for the game sheet.

The lines for the 67's started something like this: Monahan, Martindale, Toffoli; Smith, Graovac, Dubois; Gustavsen, Foglia, Fielding with D-pairs: Ceci, Gibbons; Zanetti, Cardwell; and Shipley, Sedlak.

Chris Byrne was forced to reconfigure this small crew when Tyler Graovac left the game early with a fractured forearm. By the time the game ended, I couldn't tell if anyone was playing regularly with anyone else - just bodies out there working hard to keep the Generals from getting the tying goal.

It was a fast-paced back and forth game with both teams either getting amazingly lucky with goals not scored or having agonizingly bad luck for goals not scored - depending on your point of view.

Ottawa had to play to win...not to not lose and and play to win they did. Dalton Smith started the scoring on Ottawa's first PP when he popped the puck past Di Salvo just 4 minutes into the game. Jake Cardwell and Brett Gustavsen with the assists.

But in what would be a pattern pretty much all game, the Oshawa Generals got it back just three minutes later when Boone Jenner got one past Mrazek from in close.

The Oshawa Generals are the most penalized team in the OHL but tonight Ottawa got into the most difficulty half way through the first when Tyler Toffoli went off for slashing and then Ryan Martindale was sent off for putting the puck over the glass. The Generals had a 5-on-3 advantage for 1:24.

The 67's did a great job defending the 2-man disadvantage and with Toffoli back on the ice, Dalton Smith poked the puck past the General's defensman Tony De Hart and skated (faster than I think I've seen him skate all year) into the Oshawa zone. De Hart and Smith both went down but as he was falling Dalton Smith got the puck to Tyler Toffoli who buried it past Di Salvo for the short handed goal to put Ottawa back up by one. Zanetti had the second assist on that pretty goal.

But once again, the Generals tied it up in a goal-mouth scramble that had J.P. Labardo getting credit for the goal.

The teams traded goals again in the second with Ben Dubois scoring his 5th goal of the season when he tipped Jake Cardwell's shot from the blue line for Ottawa's second PPG of the game. Dalton Smith had the second helper there.

Ottawa native Calvin de Haan tipped in Tony De Hart's shot on one of Oshawa's 6 power plays to tie the game once again. But what must have been the best/worst puck luck of the game (again, depending on your point of view) was a series of chances the Generals had in the last 6 minutes or so to bury the puck into an open net with Mrazek clearly out of the way but simply could not. The TV time-out could not come fast enough for the 67's to rest their legs and get their hearts back into their chests.

The 67's looked a bit tired to start the third but they had to bear down right away with Zanetti being sent to the box for tripping just 42 seconds in. The 67's killed that one, no shots at all by Oshawa.

Then, when he returned to the ice Marc-Anthony Zanetti one-timed a pass from Tyler Toffoli that beat Di Salvo short-side. I didn't see a replay but from my pictures, it looks like it may have gone in off Di Salvo's glove. In any event, it gave Ottawa the lead again, and produced one of the most enthusiastic goal celebrations I've seen in a while. Jake Cardwell got the third assist for his third point of the night.

As Dalton Smith said after the game, the strategy in the third was to keep the shifts short, slow the game down, be patient with the puck and chip it out. And they executed it perfectly. There wasn't anything left in the tank of the 67's players as they kept the Generals at bay.

Another outstanding team performance for a gutsy win. The 67's face the Sudbury Wolves on Sunday for what could be a preview of the playoffs. The Wolves have been a surprising team all season and are not to be taken lightly.

Three Stars as selected by the Team1200

Hardest Working 67's
Hardest Working 67's as selected by the Team1200: Brett Gustavsen

Random Thoughts:
  • Dalton Smith was a beast! Terrific on-ice leadership.
  • This was one of those Roger's games where the mothership broadcasts the game. While usually a bit of a pain because of the commercials, it worked in Ottawa's favour as it gave Chris some regular breaks to rest his very short bench. Probably saved their legs a bit.
  • Again, lots of scouts at the game. Not that there's any good time for an injury but this is really bad timing for Tyler Graovac. This is his draft year and he has been getting better and stronger out there all year. His fracture will have him out 6 - 8 weeks. Tough finish to the year.
  • Other injury updates: Shane Prince is back in town. Says he feels better. Not sure when he will be cleared to skate; Fontana is skating again; Janes may get clearance soon; no word on when Nesbitt will skate; Lindsay should be back for the playoffs. Carnevale and Luciani are indefinite.
  • Playoffs start next Saturday at Scotia Bank Place. The first round opponent has yet to be determined.
More Pictures:
Celebrating the Toffoli's short handed goal.
Click here to see more pictures from the game.

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