67’s Rebound In Impressive Victory Over Colts

The Ottawa 67’s were back in action on Saturday afternoon after taking a beating at the hands of the Mississauga Steelheads just one night before. After a tough opening to the weekend, they looked to bounce back and hand the Barrie Colts another loss as they continue to try to bring themselves up to the level that people were expecting them to be at before the season. That is exactly what the 67’s would accomplish. They downed the Colts by a score of 3-0, improving their record on the season to 4-3-0-0. Here’s what you need to know about the 67’s hard-fought win in Barrie on Saturday afternoon.

Will Gerrior and Brad Gardiner Earning Their Keep

With Dylan Robinson returning from his five-game suspension, and Chris Barlas being in the lineup for the first time this season, two players needed to be removed from the lineup to create room. At the start of the season, there was no guarantee that either Will Gerrior (the 67’s ninth-round selection in the 2020 OHL Priority Selection) or Brad Gardiner (the 67’s third-round pick in the 2021 OHL Priority Selection) would be on the roster, but yet, when it came time to take a few players out, it was neither of the young forwards.

Will Gerrior, Ottawa 67's
Will Gerrior, Ottawa 67’s (Frankie Benvenuti / The Hockey Writers)

When the 67’s lineup was released shortly before the game started, both Steven Larforme and Brenden Sirizzotti were missing, and Gardiner and Gerrior were on the same line with Barlas centring the pair. Things haven’t been perfect for Gerrior or Gardiner this season, but you can see that they are getting better each time they step on the ice. Neither of them have been able to register a point this season, at least not yet, but they have certainly had their chances.

Related: 67’s Friday Night Struggles Continue With Loss to Steelheads

The zeros in the point category are not indicative of how the pair have played this season. Each game, they have gotten better and better and the points will eventually come, but they have made great impressions on the 67’s early in the season. For two players who didn’t have massive expectations before the season, they have shown to be capable of playing at this level, and the 67’s already deep prospect pool continues to get even deeper.

Bow Down to Will Cranley

After Friday’s game, I wrote that good goaltending was becoming the norm, and not worth writing about every single time it happens, but Will Cranley‘s performance on Saturday afternoon was nothing short of spectacular. Shutting out a Colts team with as much firepower as they have is hard enough on its own, but when you consider the kind of stops he was forced to make, it becomes even more impressive. Time and time again, he bailed the 67’s out of situations that could have completely changed the game. He was a brick wall on the night, stopping all 28 shots put his way.

Will Cranley Ottawa 67's
Will Cranley of the Ottawa 67’s. Photo by Terry Wilson / OHL Images.

There were many stops that stood out. There was one early in the game on a cross-crease chance that could have given the Colts an early 1-0 lead, but Cranley was there to turn it aside. There was one in the second period while the 67’s held a 1-0 lead where he turned a breakaway chance aside before the 67’s went the other way and scored a beautiful tic-tac-toe goal to make it 2-0. He was the ultimate game-changer for the them, and once again, without him, the game could have been very different.

“It was definitely a busy game, but I think our team put together a great effort on the ice there,” said Cranley. “We didn’t really have the execution upfront so to say, but I think as the second and third period went on we had a lot of possesion in their zone and I’m happy we could pull out the win there. It’s a very good team on the other side of the ice there, and it was good that we pulled out the win.”

In his post-game interview, Cranley was asked how slow the clock was ticking down in the final minutes of the third period. He smiled, chuckled about it, and quickly praised his teammates once more.

Related: Will Cranley – 2020 NHL Draft Prospect Profile

“Our guys had a couple big blocks, and credit to them, they did a great job in front of me helping us get the win.”

If you didn’t know any better, you might think that Cranley is an experienced goaltender who has been starting in the OHL for some time, but you would be mistaken. Yes, he has been in the OHL for a number of years, but this is his first real chance of being a starting goaltender in the league. Nevertheless, he has been one of the best goalies in the OHL this season, filling the boots of Cedrick Andree who has graduated from junior hockey. The good goaltending will give the 67’s a chance to win games, and if they can gain some consistency upfront, they will give teams problems for the rest of the season.

Chris Barlas Makes Much Anticipated Debut

The 67’s first-round draft choice in the 2021 OHL Priority Selection has been sidelined to start the season with a non-COVID-related illness. After missing the team’s first six games, Chris Barlas was cleared to make his OHL debut on Saturday afternoon in Barrie. He didn’t get much ice time in his first game while playing with Gerrior and Gardiner, but he didn’t make any major mistakes that cost his team either. Call it a low bar, but that’s all you can really hope for out of a rookie playing his first game at the level no matter where they were selected in the draft.

Christopher Barlas, Ottawa 67's
Christopher Barlas, Ottawa 67’s (Frankie Benvenuti, The Hockey Writers)

Barlas didn’t score or do anything too special in the game, but what he did do was bring some stability to the bottom of the lineup. There’s no question that the 67’s have high hopes for him. If they didn’t, they wouldn’t have picked him in the first round. He’s likely not going to score a bunch this season, but he will be a pest to play against. He’s good in his own zone, he’s shown to be a solid playmaker who can set up his teammates with great chances, and the 67’s are a better hockey team with him in the lineup. His debut is a very welcome thing for the 67’s who had an interesting mix of lines before he played Saturday afternoon. He won’t set your stat sheet on fire, but you will notice him when the time is right.

Much Needed Bounce Back

With the 67’s struggling to win the first game of their weekend each of the first three weeks of the season, the second game of the weekend has become very important to keeping pace with teams around the league early on. Once again, they bounced back with an impressive win, looking like a completely different team than they did the night before. It’s really an interesting case study as to why it is happening, but nevertheless, they have been very good in the second and third games of their weekends, and they looked especially good in Barrie.

With two of three games on the weekend wrapped up, the 67’s head to Oshawa for a third clash with the Generals this season, this time in enemy territory. It’s likely going to be Colin MacKenzie in goal for the 67’s, and it’s a good chance to take the lead in the season series against one of their biggest rivals. The puck drops at 6:05 p.m. from Tribute Communities Centre on Sunday evening.

Sign up for our regular 'Prospects Newsletter' for all the latest.