67’s Earn a Point Despite Being Undermanned

It was a rare Tuesday night game at the Arena at TD Place where the Ottawa 67’s played host to the Kingston Frontenacs for their fifth of 12 meetings this season. The 67’s came into the game riding a high after back-to-back wins over the Peterborough Petes and North Bay Battalion, tying them for first place in the Ontario Hocket Leauge’s Eastern Conference. Despite missing their leading goal scorer in Jack Beck and their lone over-ager Adam Varga, they played a solid game and managed to earn a point after falling 4-3 in a shootout.

Playing the Frontenacs Tough

In their five meetings so far, the 67’s have a record of 2-2-0-1 against the Frontenacs, and other than their season-opening 8-1 loss, they have played Kingston incredibly close. It becomes even more impressive when you consider where both teams were supposed to finish according to the pundits, including myself. Ottawa is supposed to be in a rebuilding season, and although I had thought they would be better than most people, I didn’t see this coming. Kingston was supposed to be the cream of the crop in the Eastern Conference, but they have struggled at times.

“I liked our game,” said 67’s head coach Dave Cameron. “I didn’t like the first 10 or 12 minutes. We didn’t have any jump which is going to happen, but I thought our puck management was horrendous. We fed them, we let them play with a short rink because we turned the puck over at the blue lines.”

Dave Cameron, Ottawa 67's
Dave Cameron, head coach of the Ottawa 67’s (Frankie Benvenuti / The Hockey Writers)

“I thought the turning point for us in the first period was we had a really good penalty kill,” Cameron continued. “After that, we seemed to get a little emotional lift and I thought that the second and third period, we did a lot of good things.”

One of the keys to the 67’s games against the Frontenacs has been how they play against Shane Wright. Wright, of course, is projected to be the number one overall selection in the 2022 NHL Entry Draft and is expected to lead the OHL in multiple categories this season. You very rarely are able to keep him off the scoreboard, but the 67’s did just that on Tuesday. They matched up a line consisting of Thomas Johnston, Chris Barlas, and Luca Pinelli against Kingston’s big line, and it worked wonders.

Missing Adam Varga and Jack Beck

When the lineups came out before the game, there were two notable names missing. Both Adam Varga and Jack Beck were banged up and considered day-to-day. Without them, it didn’t seem like the 67’s odds of winning against a Kingston team that currently leads the Eastern Conference in points percentage would be in the cards, but to their credit, they had players step up in big ways and were able to take home a point.

Jack Beck Ottawa 67s
Jack Beck Ottawa 67s (Josh Kim / The Hockey Writers)

Currently, there is no information available about when Varga and Beck will return to play, but considering they are both day-to-day, there is likely a chance that both could be back in the lineup on Friday night when the Mississauga Steelheads are in town. Both players play very important roles on the team, and the sooner they can get both back, the better off they will be. You really don’t want to be missing two of your veteran players when the team is already the second youngest by average age in the OHL.

Rohrer and Gaidamak Step Up

Missing what they were, the 67’s needed players to step up and have big games. They had multiple players step up and have big games, but on the scoresheet, their duo of import players were the ones getting things done. Both Vinzenz Rohrer and Vsevolod Gaidamak scored a goal with Rohrer scoring a pair and coming close to adding a third on numerous occasions.

Vsevolod Gaidamak, Ottawa 67's
Vsevolod Gaidamak, Ottawa 67’s (Frankie Benvenuti / The Hockey Writers)

“I talked with Jack [Beck] and he really said you’ve gotta step up now,” said Rohrer. “We don’t play on the same line now, I played winger today, not center. For me, it was not a different game but it was for sure something different especially because I didn’t play with Jack. It’s the same again. You just try to focus on your game and that’s the most you can do.”

Related: 6 Ottawa 67’s Rookies to Watch in 2021-22

Gaidamak and Rohrer are third and fourth on the team in scoring respectively, and it’s not completely surprising that they were the ones to pick things up and help the 67’s out offensively, but they were both exceptional on Tuesday night. No one was really too sure how the import situation was going to look after losing both Marco Rossi and Nikita Okhotyuk since they were last on the ice, but it’s fair to say that James Boyd and his team have found two suitable replacements.

Moving Up

Even with the loss, the 67’s picked up the single point they needed in order to take over sole possession of the Eastern Conference lead. They have played a bunch of games against some really good teams including the Frontenacs, Battalion, Generals, and the Colts who are starting to pick it up a little bit. There’s never a bad time to be in first place, but they are in for another tough weekend starting on Friday night against the Steelheads.

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