March 27, 2015

67's vs IceDogs: A new season begins

It’s April 27, 2012 and Sean Monahan, Tyler Toffoli, Cody Ceci and Petr Mrazek played the last game of the season – the Ottawa 67’s fell 3-2 to the Niagara IceDogs eliminating them from playoff contention in 5 games during the Eastern Conference Semifinals. Mark that as the last time any 67’s player saw the post-season – until now.

Fast forward 1063 days to today, the 67’s will finally embark on another playoff run. For most, it’s a new experience – but for one, it feels like an eternity.

Can’t wait to start up some playoff hockey again in the capital #besttimeoftheyear,” said the player on Instagram.
Mike Vlajkov was a young rookie the last time the 67’s were in the playoffs. He is now in his 4th-year and the only current 67 player left from that 2011-12 team. There only 5 other players on the current roster that have OHL playoff experience – all with other teams including Evan de Haan (SBY), Trent Mallette (SSM), Brendan Bell (BAR), Curtis Meighan (KIT) and Adam Craievich (GUE).

Despite the lack of experience, the team knows they have to stick to their game.
“It's still hockey, we've still got to play the same way, it just gets a little more intense and you have to step up,” said head coach Jeff Brown who also enters his first OHL post-season.
How they got here
The 67’s kicked off the season on a 4-game roadtrip where they went 0-4-0-0 and had their new coaches wondering what they got themselves into. It wasn’t until their returned home to TD Place that they would see a number in the win column. The 67’s continued to struggle on the road but posted a very impressive home record. It wasn’t until Nov 30th that the 67’s would lose their first game at home in regulation.
As the season wore on, the team continued to improve all around. The 67’s learned how to win on the road and put together their biggest win streak (7 games) since the 2008-09 season.
We have a lot of character and that’s what’s changed things here,” said Brown about the turn around. “Guys just pulling together, playing for hard one another and buying into the team game.”
The 67’s got caught in another slump but now head into the post-season with 4 wins in their last 5 games.
It’s been a great run that we’ve had since our 0-4 start. We’ve had some great ups and obviously some downs too. We’re not in the same breath as those top top teams but we’re certainly competitive and when we play a team game we can compete with those guys,” said Brown.
The Niagara IceDogs also struggled early in the season posting an underwhelming record of 2-13-0-0 in their first 15 games. As the season went on, the IceDogs continued to improve but it wasn’t until the new year that the team took off. Since Jan 2nd, the IceDogs have not lost more than 6 games in regulation and have been one of the hottest teams in the last three months posting a record 25-6-2-0 in the final 33 games.
“They pressure the puck all over the place, they're well-coached and they have good special teams, we're going to have to play a close-to-perfect series, and we're capable of it,” said Brown.
While the 67’s hold a 3-1-0-0 record over the IceDogs, the 67’s played most of their games in the first half of the season. Since the new year, the 67’s have only faced the IceDogs once and that was a huge 8-3 loss in Niagara.
Being the 4th & 5th ranked team in the East, the 67’s and IceDogs match up pretty well including similar home and away records, similar specialty teams and similar strengths and weaknesses throughout their rosters.
The 67’s boast three lines that can be effective in different situations during a given game. Travis Konecny & Dante Salituro’s lines possess a lethal combination of speed plus skill that can make other teams pay for any defensive hiccups. The 67’s also have a third line that can outwork and slow down the opposition.

While the 67’s have many skilled players, their offensive production is centred around the top two lines. Konecny had a rough start to the season but has been hot since the new year. He is expected to return to the lineup tonight after missing the last 5 games of the regular season. He has a nack for scoring third period goals and is tied for 6th in game winning goals in the league.

While offensive production is more top heavy the 67’s have 8 players with more than 30 points this season but only have 3 players with more than 20 goals. On the other side, the IceDogs have 11 players who have more than 30 points and 5 players with more than 20 goals.

The IceDogs have three lines that can beat you offensively. Leafs prospect Carter Verhaeghe leads the team with 82 points and has stayed healthy for all 68 games this season. The addition of Josh Ho-Sang adds to the already offensively deep IceDogs – he had 62 points in 49 games since joining the IceDogs. Jordan Maletta, Anthony DiFruscia and Danish forward Mikkel Aagaard adds depth down the line. Aagaard had a hat trick against the 67’s in their 8-3 romping.
“They pressure the puck all over the place, they're well-coached and they have good special teams, we're going to have to play a close-to-perfect series, and we're capable of it,” said Jeff Brown.

DEFENCEMEN: Slight edge Ottawa
Defense has been a question at times for both teams throughout the season. The IceDogs inexperience on the blueline is something that the 67’s may look to target.

Vince Dunn leads the defensemen on his team in points and is prospect in the upcoming NHL Entry draft. Blake Siebenaler is another defenseman capable of jumping in offensively. Ryan Manth, a prospect of the New York Rangers, gives the IceDogs some physicality on the back-end.

The 67’s relied heavily on LA Kings’ prospects Jake Middleton and Alex Lintuniemi this season and they will continue to into the playoffs.
You're going to see a lot of Lintuniemi and Middleton, they're going to play half the game, that's the way it is come playoff time.  They'll earn their day off between games,” said Jeff Brown.
Evan de Haan has become another important asset on the 67’s blueline and is expected to be ready to play for game one. Middleton and de Haan add a stay-at-home mentality that has become a cornerstone for this team. Lintuniemi is able to jump in offensively while being just as responsible defensively. Nevin Guy, Mike Vlajkov and Taylor Davis add depth and regular season experience to the squad.
GOALTENDING:  Tie, Edge Niagara
Goaltending has been inconsistent at times for both teams but this series could easily come down to this factor.
Liam Herbst is expected to start the series for the 67’s. He has a 1-2-0-0 career record against the IceDogs posting a GAA of 4.33 and a save percentage of .880. Herbst has had his ups and downs throughout the season. While he sometimes has struggled late in the game, he has also stolen many games for his club.

Herbst is 1-1-0-0 in Niagara but also played in the CHL Top Prospects Game at the Merdian Centre this season. He made 21-saves in the final 29 minutes and led his team to a 6-0 victory impressing many scouts in attendance.

Ottawa native Brent Moran and recently acquired Brandon Hope have been alternating all season. Unlike Herbst, both have some OHL playoff experience which could come in hand down the stretch. Brent Moran played 7 playoff games for Niagara last season, but it may be Hope who starts in nets. Hope has a record of 5-0-0-0 against Ottawa in his OHL career posting a GAA of 3.40 and a save percentage of .890.

Marty Williamson’s entered his 11th OHL season this year (and his 4th behind the IceDogs bench). All 11 years, his team has made it into the post-season but none of his teams have been able to push past the final rounds. The IceDogs have failed to make it past the first round since ousting the 67’s in the Conference Semifinals three seasons ago. Williamson also has experience coaching Ontario in the 2005 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge where his team placed 4th losing to Canada Atlantic in the bronze medal game.

While Williamson has more OHL experience than Jeff Brown, don’t be too fast to count out the first-year 67’s head coach. Brown took a two-year bottom feeder team and transformed them into a competitive hockey club that can compete with the league’s best.

Brown isn’t completely new to coaching; he started out in the UHL and continued on to coach the next 6 years in junior hockey. This including stints in the NAHL with the St. Louis Bandits and USHL with the Indiana where he won a championship with each team.

One intangible asset that Brown has over Williamson is his experience as a player. Brown played 4 seasons in the OHL and 12 season in the NHL and his time as a player can only help in the situation.

“I know Marty (Williamson) very well. Before I was a coach in this league, we talked about philosophies a little bit on coaching and stuff. So I know how hard their going to come hard, exactly like we want to play, pressure the puck. It should make for an exciting playoff series,” Brown told TSN1200 on Wednesday.

This marks the 5th time overall and the 4th time in 7 years that the 67’s and IceDogs have met in the post-season:  (1 time as the Mississauga IceDogs in 2002-03) 
  • 2009 Playoffs:  IceDogs advanced
    In the opening round of the playoffs, Julien Demers tallied 11 points while Logan Couture and Corey Cowick were close behind with 10 & 9 points, respectively. Each team exchanged wins, one after another and ultimately the IceDogs defeated the 67’s 4 games to 3.
  • 2010 Playoffs:  67’s advanced
    Tyler Toffoli lead the team in scoring with 7 points in 5 games while Petr Mrazek posted a goals against average of 1.38 as the 67’s advanced to the second round. The 67’s went on to lose in 7 games to the Mississauga St.Michaels Majors in Eastern Semifinals.
  • 2012 Playoffs:  IceDogs advanced
    The 67’s defeating the Belleville Bulls in the Eastern Quarterfinals & the Barrie Colts in the Eastern Semifinals. The 67’s couldn’t find much offense in the Eastern Conference Finals with Cody Ceci leading the way with 5 points in 5 games. IceDogs advanced to the OHL finals in 5 games

Ottawa:  38-25-4-1
Niagara:  37-27-2-2
Series record
3-1-0-0 in favour of Ottawa 67’s

Oct 10, 2014 – Niagara 3 @ Ottawa 4
Oct 30, 2014 – Ottawa 4 @ Niagara 1
Dec 5, 2014 – Niagara 2 @ Ottawa 4
Mar 7, 2015 – Ottawa 3 @ Niagara 8
Goals for
Ottawa:  239      
Niagara:  274    

Goals against
Ottawa:  220            
Niagara:  237     

Specialty teams
PP- 21.9% (8th in league)
PK- 83.0% (2nd in league)

PP- 21.6% (9th in league)
PK- 81.8% (4th in league)

Top performers
  • Dante Salituro- 37 goals, 78 points in 68 games
  • Travis Konecny-29 goals, 68 points in 60 games
  • Jeremiah Addison- 19 goals, 45 points in 63 games
  • Nathan Todd- 19 goals, 47 points in 63 games
  • Brendan Bell- 22 goals, 39 points in 62 games
  • Carter Verhaeghe- 33 goals, 82 points in 68 games
  • Joshua Ho-Sang- 17 goals, 81 points in 59 games
  • Brendan Perlini- 26 goals, 60 points in 43 games
  • Vince Dunn- 18 goals, 56 points in 68 games
  • Billy Jenkins- 15 goals, 56 points in 67 games
NHL Draft Picks
  • Alex Lintuniemi – Los Angeles Kings (2nd round, 2014)
  • Jacob Middleton – Los Angeles Kings (7th round, 2014)
  • Travis Konecny – ranked #26 of North American Skaters in CSS’ Midterm rankings
  • Jeremiah Addison – ranked #127 of North American Skaters in CSS’ Midterm rankings
  • Dante Salituro – ranked #145 of North American Skaters in CSS’ Midterm rankings
  • Liam Herbst – ranked #14 of North American Goalies in CSS’ Midterm rankings

  • Bredan Perlini – Arizona Coyotes (1st round, 2014)
  • Josh Ho-Sang – New York Islanders (1st round, 2014)
  • Carter Verhaeghe – Toronto Maple Leafs (3rd round, 2013)
  • Blake Siebenaler – Columbus Blue Jackets (3rd round, 2014)
  • Brent Moran – Dallas Stars (4th round, 2014)
  • Ryan Mantha – New York Rangers (4th round, 2014)
  • Cody Payne – Boston Bruins (5th round, 2012)
  • Aaron Haydon – Dallas Stars (6th round, 2014)
  • Vince Dunn – ranked #53 of North American Skaters in CSS’ Midterm rankings
  • Graham Knott – ranked #54 of North American Skaters in CSS’ Midterm rankings
 Ottawa connections
  • Brent Moran – Orleans native
  • Billy Jenkins – Ottawa native

Game 1 - Thu Mar 26 7:00 PM Niagara at Ottawa
Game 2 - Sat Mar 28 1:00 PM Niagara at Ottawa
Game 3 - Mon Mar 30 7:00 PM Ottawa at Niagara
Game 4 - Wed Apr 1 7:00 PM Ottawa at Niagara
Game 5 - Fri Apr 3 7:30 PM * Niagara at Ottawa
Game 6 - Sun Apr 5 2:00 PM * Ottawa at Niagara
Game 7 - Tue Apr 7 7:00 PM * Niagara at Ottawa
*if necessary

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