For the final time this preseason, the Ottawa 67’s took the ice at TD Place in Ottawa as they hosted the Kingston Frontenacs. The 67’s gave the high-flying Frontenacs a run for their money, but their comeback effort fell just short and Kingston completed their undefeated run in the preseason with a 4-3 win.
Rohrer Finding His Stride
Right from the first time Vinzenz Rohrer hit the ice for the 67’s in the team’s trip to Kingston, fans knew he was going to have an impact on the offence this season. He has been one of the team’s more impressive players in the preseason, but he has been held off the score sheet, unable to register a point in his previous three games. That changed on Wednesday night’s game against the Frontenacs with Rohrer registering a pair of goals, albeit ones that probably won’t be making any highlight reels.
The first of Rohrer’s goals came in the second period to tie the game, but it was more of a mistake on behalf of Ottawa Senators’ prospect, Leevi Meriläinen than a good goal from Rohrer. However, as they say, when you put the puck on net, good things happen. Rohrer threw the puck towards the goal from behind the icing line, and someway, somehow, the puck squeaked through the legs of Meriläinen and notched Rohrer his first goal in an Ontario Hockey League (OHL) game of the preseason variety.
A goal is a goal, but there is little chance that Rohrer could have possibly imagined that puck going in the net. Not to say that he was slumping before, but sometimes streaks can be started or slumps can be snapped with a goal like this, and it had to have felt like a monkey off his back just to see the goal light come on and his name announced as the goal scorer. There was still more to come from him in the game; however, this time, it was a little bit nicer of a goal.
With time running out on the 67’s, Rohrer tipped home a point shot from Matthew Mayich that beat Meriläinen low on the blocker side. It was a nice deflection that took some awareness by knowing what he was likely going to do. It shows that he has been working with some of his teammates for a few weeks and the chemistry is coming along for him.
Rohrer is still getting used to the North American style of game and will take some time to fully adapt, but the young Austrian has shown promise. Kenny Walls, the 67’s play-by-play commentator has been comparing him to Artur Tyanulin, a Russian import who scored 85 points in 67 in 2016-17 for the team. It has also been noted that Rohrer skates a little better than Tyanulin, and that’s something he has put on display this preseason. He’s finally on the scoresheet, and things are looking better and better as he continues to get more playing time.
Gaidamak’s Impressive Preseason
Vsevolod Gaidamak has done nothing but score since he arrived in Canada a couple of weeks ago. Like Rohrer, he is an import player, playing his first games in North America, but Gaidamak is a year older and a step further along in his development. The first four preseason games can be described as a great success for him considering he has registered a goal in all four games he has played in and found one assist when the 67’s travelled to North Bay.
We have seen a little bit of everything early on from Gaidamak. His large frame (5-foot-11 and 196 pounds) allows him to be physical but doesn’t hamper his skating witch has been rather strong early on. His offensive awareness is also quite impressive. He has a good handle on where his teammates are and knows how to get open for them when they have the puck. His shot has also looked good and he has put it to good use, including his goal on Wednesday night.
All around, Gaidamak has been a player that everyone notices when he is on the ice. The adjustment period hasn’t been as major as some other players, but that doesn’t mean that his pace will continue this way. While a goal a game for Gaidamak is probably pretty unrealistic, he will be an immediate difference-maker with the 67’s and he will add some much-needed production offensively for a team that lost most of their scoring over the extended offseason.
Donoso Vs. MacKenzie Battle Heating Up
The battle for the backup spot behind Will Cranley still doesn’t have a definitive answer and heading into the final preseason game in Sudbury on Oct. 3, Max Donoso and Collin MacKenzie have everything to play for. This preseason, Donoso has played 76 minutes giving up four goals on 32 shots and MacKenzie has played 190 minutes giving up nine goals on 84 shots. The two are close statistically and have both been relatively good in the preseason, but that’s making it incredibly hard to separate and decide.
I assume that we will see both goaltenders splitting the game in Sudbury over the weekend, but will that game really decide who stays and who doesn’t? To me, I don’t think it necessarily will. By now, the 67’s should have a good idea of who will make the opening night roster and who won’t, and that shouldn’t be any different in goal. While Donoso hasn’t done much wrong in the way of his play on the ice, but neither has MacKenzie.
If I had to guess who the backup will be when the season opens in about two weeks, I would put my money on Donoso, but it wouldn’t be too much money. MacKenzie was probably the best goalie on the ice in training camp and it wouldn’t shock me if he was the one to stick around. So, maybe the final preseason game means little for the goaltending spot, or maybe it will make the difference that sends one home. Only time will tell.
Keeping Shane Wright Quiet
It’s only the preseason, but the 67’s have done a fantastic job at keeping Frontenacs’ superstar Shane Wright off the board in their two meetings. Technically, he does have two points against Ottawa in the preseason, but one of those points came when he wasn’t on the ice and hadn’t been for some time, so really, it’s just the one point.
Holding a player with the talent of Wright off the board for the most part in two games is impressive, and while the games don’t matter just yet, it is something for the young 67’s to build on going forward. They can’t completely shut Wright down, but to beat the Frontenacs, the team will have to minimize his impact on the game. That certainly is not an easy task, but the 67’s have done a good job at doing that in the preseason.
One More Crack Before the Real Thing
The final game of the 67’s’ preseason will go on Sunday, Oct. 3 against the Sudbury Wolves in Sudbury. It’s one more time to prove that you belong for the players, and it’s one last time for the fans to see what the 67’s have coming up in the system. Most importantly, it marks the celebration of being that much closer to the meaningful games, something we haven’t had since March of 2020.
Currently a journalism student at Algonquin College in Ottawa, I have always had a passion for the OHL and the Ottawa 67’s in particular. I have been attending games since I was young, and being involved with sports has always been a dream of mine. Sports writing fits perfectly into that. You can also find me talking and writing other sports (primarily Canadian football) on my website 13thmansports.ca!