67’s Fall Short in Comeback Bid Against Peterborough Petes

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. 

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

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.

Related: 67’s Youth Steps Up in Win Over North Bay Battalion

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.

Mason McTavish Peterborough Petes
Mason McTavish of the Peterborough Petes (Terry Wilson / OHL Images)

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.”  

Related: 67’s Show Their Grit With 7-4 Win Over the Sudbury Wolves

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.

Cameron Tolnai Ottawa 67's
Cameron Tolnai, Ottawa 67’s (Terry Wilson/OHL Images)

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.

Colin MacKenzie, Ottawa 67's
Colin MacKenzie, Ottawa 67’s (Frankie Benvenuti / The Hockey Writers)

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.