March 29, 2012

Round One: Bulls Get Back In The Series

On the strength of two overtime goals from Jordan Mayer and Brady Austin, the Belleville Bulls are back in this series after earning a pair of 4-3 OT wins on their home ice. Mayer snapped home his first of the playoffs just 14 seconds into game 3 while Austin beat Petr Mrazek from far out, 7:46 into the extra frame in game 4 to level the series at 2-2. Now, the two teams head to Ottawa for a pivotal, nationally-televised matchup on Friday night.

A large and loud contingent of 67’s fans bussed to Belleville to watch game 3 on Sunday, a showing that didn’t go unnoticed by players and staff. Although Ottawa’s powerplay couldn’t click, and Daniil Zharkov scored first for the Bulls, the 67’s fought back and took a 3-1 lead into the final period thanks to markers from Tyler Graovac, Brett Gustavsen and Sean Monahan.

In the third period, much alike the third period of game 3 last year against the Sudbury Wolves, Ottawa couldn’t hold the 3-1 advantage. Michael Curtis scored shorthanded and Jake Worrad’s long slap shot trickled through Mrazek to tie the game at three. Mayer completed the comeback just seconds into overtime and Belleville earned their first playoff win since 2009.

On Tuesday night, it was Belleville’s turn to throw away a late lead. Luke Judson and Brendan Gaunce gave the home side a two-goal edge just five minutes in, and Austen Brassard looked to have put the game away when he extended the lead to three midway through the third. The game was a goaltending duel at this point, and Belleville’s Malcolm Subban was absolutely taking over. It wasn’t until a spirited scrap that the 67’s seemed to wake up.

With a penalty already on the way to the Bulls’ Carter Sandlak for checking to the head, Remy Giftopoulos dropped the gloves with, and took down Jake Worrad. The fight seemed to give the visitors a spark, as Tyler Toffoli scored 20 seconds into the powerplay to get Ottawa on the board. Ryan Van Stralen put his own rebound past Subban and with under two minutes to go, Jake Cardwell wristed one to the back of the net to tie the game at three, capping off a wild comeback with Ottawa’s third goal in less than eight minutes.

The ensuing overtime period was longer than the overtime periods played in games one and three combined, but in the end, Austin’s long wrister sent the series back to the Nation’s Capital tied. One of these teams could have their season ended Monday night in Belleville, if the teams are still tied they will play the seventh and deciding game in Ottawa the following night.

Ottawa will be without Captain Marc-Anthony Zanetti until game 7 (if neccesary) as he was assessed a five-game suspension for his pre-game spear on Stephen Silas in game 2.

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