On Saturday afternoon, the Ottawa 67’s traveled from their weekend outpost in Oshawa to Hamilton to take on the Bulldogs in an Ontario Hockey League clash. It was a back-and-forth game that was up for grabs either way, right until the very end, but it was the 67’s edging out a 6-3 win and reclaiming first place in the Eastern Conference standings. Here’s what you need to know.
Colin MacKenzie’s Tough Outing
Coming into Saturday afternoon’s game, the 67’s had seen plenty of success with Colin MacKenzie, their backup goaltender between the pipes. He had a perfect 4-0 record in the games he started, and some of those games were impressive, including wins over the Oshawa Generals on two separate occasions. He had played very well in every single outing until his start in Hamilton. Right from the start of the game, it was pretty clear that things weren’t exactly going his way.
You couldn’t find fault in MacKenzie for the Bulldogs’ first goal of the afternoon, but the second and third goals he allowed were ones he would want back. Jan Mysak beat him under the arm in an awkward-looking goal to give the Bulldogs a 2-1 lead, and in the second period, Avery Hayes scored another goal that MacKenzie probably should have had. He allowed two goals on four shots in the first period and three goals on 12 shots overall, far from his best performance in the OHL.
After the third goal, 67’s head coach Dave Cameron decided to end his young goaltender’s night, pulling him in favor of Will Cranley, the St. Louis Blues prospect. Cranley stepped into the crease and immediately made a difference in the game, stopping all 14 shots he faced in his 31 minutes and change of action. He was once again incredible in the 67’s net and was a large reason for them coming out on top in the game.
There are often conversations about when a goaltending change is made. Many would argue that you shouldn’t pull your goalie when the game is close, but Cameron went with his gut, and it paid off. It was clear that it was not MacKenzie’s night, and had he not made the change, it could have ended with a loss. As for MacKenzie, he has been superb to start the season, and there is no reason that one bad outing should shake his confidence or the coaching staff’s confidence in him. Every goaltender is bound to have a couple of stinkers during a long season, Saturday afternoon just happened to be one of those games for him.
67’s Skaters Reach Milestones
Two members of the 67’s reached milestones in their win over the Bulldogs on Saturday. Luca Pinelli notched his first career goal in the OHL after a shot from Cam Tolnai was ripped off the post and right onto the waiting stick of Pinelli, and Tolnai himself scored his 50th career OHL point on the prior goal.
Pinelli has been really impressive in his true rookie season but hasn’t been able to pot his first goal until now. He has been one of the most impressive players on the ice early in the season, and you could probably put him up there among the most talented players on the roster. He has been unlucky many times, missing open nets and hitting the iron, but he looks to have all of the things that make for a good player in the OHL. His ceiling is sky-high.
Tolnai is now into his third season in the OHL, and it took him 123 games to reach the 50 point mark, but it’s better late than never. He has become one of the most important players for the 67’s this season, sitting in second on the team in scoring with 17 points in 15 games. He’s currently on pace to smash his previous career highs in both goals (eight) and points (22). He has also been named one of the team’s alternate captains this season, splitting the duty with five others.
67’s Massive Third Period
For the first two periods, the 67’s had started like a house on fire and slowly faded away in the latter stages of both periods. That may have been the bus legs, or it could have been the Bulldogs getting things going, but regardless, their inability to finish a period as they started it left them trailing 3-2 and needing a big third period to snap their two-game losing streak.
Right off the hope, the 67’s got a goal from Pinelli to tie the game. They continued to play their brand of hockey and lock things down, aided, of course, by the solid performance turned in by their goaltender. Halfway through the period, they got another goal courtesy of Vsevolod Gaidamak, his second of the game. Up by one with just over 10 minutes to play, the 67’s went into defensive mode, looking to hold the Bulldogs to as little offense as possible.
Hamilton had their chances, but they were either turned aside by Cranley or by fantastic defensive plays. The Bulldogs brought Marco Costantini (brother of 67’s defencemen Anthony Costantini) to the bench for the extra attacker. Brenden Sirizzotti slipped away and scored into the empty net before the ‘Dogs once again pulled the goalie and Brady Stonehouse put the game out of reach.
Four goals in 11 third-period shots clinched the game for the 67’s. It was far from a perfect effort and there are things that Cameron won’t be too happy about seeing, but a win is a win, especially when it comes against one of the better teams in the conference on the road. However, without a strong third period, Ottawa likely would have had their losing streak extended to three games.
Wrapping Up the Weekend
A loss to the Mississauga Steelheads on Friday and a win against the Bulldogs on Saturday have the 67’s sitting a 1-1 on their weekend swing. The weekend isn’t over quite yet as a trip to Oshawa to take on the Generals for the fourth time this season. The 67’s have won two of the previous three meetings against the Generals, but one of them required a comeback of heroic proportions. If their previous meetings are any indication, it should at least be an entertaining hockey game.
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!