Despite a roster depleted by fatigue, injuries and a suspension, the Ottawa 67’s came from behind and within a goal of forcing their Sunday afternoon tilt with the Peterborough Petes into overtime on the late third-period heroics of Jack Matier and Cam Tolnai. While the team’s “No Quit” motto was on full display, their effort was too little too late.
With the 3-2 loss in the Lift Lock City, the boys from the nation’s capital took three of a possible six points available to them in a grueling three-game weekend schedule. Successful teams learn as much from wins as they do from losses and you can bet that on the long bus ride back to Ottawa, 67’s head coach Dave Cameron drove home a few lessons with his charges from this one.
67’s Must Get Off to Strong Starts
One of the takeaways from the game is that starts matter. Ottawa came out with plenty of energy at the start of the first frame, but then quickly seemed to let their foot off the gas pedal. The 67’s found themselves down two goals to none before the halfway point of the period. They spent the rest of the afternoon chasing the game and never got out of the hole they so quickly dug for themselves.
Sloppy turnovers plagued them and just before the five-minute mark of the first stanza, the Petes’ Mason McTavish picked-off a careless east-west pass between Ottawa’s defence in their own zone and converted it into his fourth marker of the season. The lesson for Ottawa was that the Anaheim Ducks’ prospect, who spent much of the fall in the NHL, is the last player around whom any OHL team should become careless.
Just five minutes later, Ottawa D-man Teddy Sawyer, normally a steady presence on the back end, mishandled the puck, sending it toward rookie goaltender Max Donoso’s net and under his pad. He had little chance on the play.
The Petes’ Emmett Sproule, one of the team’s top-scoring guns was credited with the goal, but that was only because he happened to be the player standing closest to the net.
67’s Need to Get in Front of the Net to Win
That’s a point Cameron is sure to make with his team after this loss. While Ottawa peppered Petes’ goalie Tye Austin with 43 shots, too few of them were taken from high danger areas and even fewer from his doorstep.
As Cameron told me last month in a post-game presser following his team’s win over the Sudbury Wolves, “our quality of shots was good and we got rewarded because we had guys at the net. It made the goalie’s job tough. If you have 100 shots without net presence, you’re not going to score too many.”
Against the Petes, it was only in the last 10 minutes of the game that they made their presence at the net felt. By then, mounting a comeback was a long shot at best.
67’s Team Leaders Must Step Up
For most of the game, Ottawa’s team leaders were missing in action. Jack Matier, with an assist from Tolnai, changed that with a lightning bolt he released from the faceoff circle off a rush that beat Austin cleanly. The problem for Ottawa was that the goal came with barely more than six minutes left in the game.
Yet it was enough to rally the 67’s who put the Petes back on their heels, relentlessly banging and crashing Austin’s crease. Just as Cameron would have predicted, that net presence paid dividends when minutes later Brady Stonehouse, assisted by Tolnai and Matier, lit the goal light again and brought his team to within a goal of the Petes.
As Cameron told me after the win against the Wolves, “the older guys have to step up and do it. Johnston, Beck, Varga, Tolnai and Jack Matier – they are the guys that set the tone for us.”
Tolnai, Stonehouse and Matier did just that on the 67’s two goals, but not soon enough. They displayed a great effort, except it was too late.
Ottawa 67’s Live Up to #NoQuit Motto
The 67’s lived up to their #NoQuit motto. The comeback they mounted was gutsy, given that Dylan Robinson is suspended and Jack Beck and several other key players, including goalie Colin MacKenzie are injured. Not only that, but against the Petes, the team was clearly exhausted after playing three games in three days, each in a different city.
All things considered, the 67’s did well to come out of the weekend with three of a possible six points. They will take a well-deserved rest until Thursday when they are back on the ice facing the Niagara IceDogs.
Paul covers the Calgary Flames, the Ottawa Senators and the OHL’s Ottawa 67s for The Hockey Writers (THW). He also hosts the Flames Faceoff show for THW’s Podcast Network.
Paul has been sought for media interviews for the thoughtful pieces he has written on hockey’s response to the major social and political issues of the day including the place of gay players in the game. Paul is also known for his interesting perspectives on the key issues and challenges facing the teams he follows.
Of his work with THW, Paul says, “I love to tell stories about the game of hockey and the personalities – both past and present, who have made it the greatest game on the planet!”
Follow him on Twitter at @pquinney