67’s Get a Measure of Revenge Against the Frontenacs in Home Opener

In their Ontario Hockey League season opener, the Ottawa 67’s got demolished by the Kingston Frontenacs by a score of 8-1. They headed home looking ahead to another matchup with the Fronts on Sunday, a game where they looked nothing like what they did in their first game. It was virtually a complete 180 from their effort on Friday night, resulting in a gutsy 3-2 win. It was the 67’s first home win since March 10, 2020, when they beat the Niagara Ice Dogs 9-1. They played well in the offensive zone, played well in their own zone, and got good goaltending from Will Cranley. A complete effort and a deserving win for Ottawa.

Much Improved Start

On Friday night, the 67’s were brought down by a poor start that saw them down by three goals before four minutes had run off the clock, but they found a way to rectify that issue this time around. The 67’s opened the scoring just over a minute into the game when Vsevolod Gaidamak banged home a loose puck at the side of the net.

Related: 67’s Have Tables Turned On Them In Season Opener Against the Frontenacs

There is an old trope in car racing that says that you can’t win a race in the opening lap, but you certainly can lose it. That is also true in hockey. The strong start didn’t win the 67’s the game, but they did lose the game in the opening minutes when they last played.

“I just think we came out more ready, we knew how they played after that first game. They had good systems, they were fast, and skilled,” said Jack Beck, the scorer of the 67’s game-winning goal. “We just thought we had to play gritty, get pucks deep and get on their ‘D’ and force them to make turnovers. That’s how we got all our goals.”

“I think it’s just mental preparation before the game,” he continued. “Everyone has their own rituals they have to do. Some people roll out, some people are loose before games, and I think everyone has to find what works for them, and we did that today. We had a good speech, good pregame warmup, so you’ve just got to find what’s good for you, and you’ll come out strong off the start.”

Stonehouse, Gaidamak, Varge Line Clicking

On the pregame lineup, the third line was listed from left to right as Brady Stonehouse, Vsevolod Gaidamak, and Adam Varga. If there was one line that was clicking and making things happen, it was this line. There’s just one thing that head coach Dave Cameron didn’t like when discussing them postgame, them being called the third line.

“I’m not big on that,” said Cameron. “They are not my third line. We have contributions from everybody.”

One of the 67’s most impressive players on the afternoon was Varga, the lone-over ager Ottawa has on the roster this season. Varga scored just one point in the game, but he was a big help to the young forwards on his line. It was a side of him that hadn’t been seen before with the 67’s. He showed off his exceptional speed and got involved in the game in all three zones, particularly in the offensive zone.

Adam Varga, Ottawa 67's
Adam Varga, Ottawa 67’s (Frankie Benvenuti, The Hockey Writers)

“I like that line,” said Cameron. “I think it has a little bit of everything on it. Gaidamak is a playmaker who sees the ice really well. [Stonehouse] is an energy and physical guy, and Varga has lots of speed. I think it’s a real good mix of that line.”

“I mixed and matched in the game in Kingston, I moved some guys around today because we had 10 forwards, but I like that line so far, and I will stay with it,” he continued. “Certainly, the next game, I will start with them, and we will go from there.”

It seemed like every time this line was on the ice, the play was in the Frontenacs’ zone. They put pressure on Kingston constantly and they made life difficult for anyone wearing black. We don’t yet know if this line will work long-term or continue to be as productive as it was on Sunday, but they have the foundation to continue building on. As for what to call them, anything but the third line should work.

Exceeding Expectations For Derek Smyth

When the Ottawa 67’s drafted Derek Smyth in the 11th round in 2020, there’s little chance that they thought he would make the roster, even less of a chance that they legitimately thought he could be a good shut down defenceman in the OHL. After committing to the team early in the say, he played his first game in the league and there’s no doubt that he exceeded the expectations of many people inside the 67’s organization. He still needs to do this consistently going forward to be called an OHL caliber shut-down defenceman, but he’s off to a great start.

Derek Smyth, Ottawa 67s
Derek Smyth, Ottawa 67s (Photo courtesy of the OHL)

If you look at the stat sheet, you won’t see anything that would make you think he played all that well, but his presence was felt on his own side of the ice. Smyth was the seventh defenceman that the 67’s were forced to dress in the absence of Chris Barlas, Luca Pinelli, and now Dylan Robinson after he was suspended for five games after an incident in Kingston.

As he was the seventh defenseman, Smyth didn’t get a considerable amount of playing time, but he looked poised and more than capable of defending his own goal when he was on the ice. He might not play every game in the rest of the season, but the 67’s should have some confidence that they have enough depth to work around injuries or when they possibly lose some players on the back end come time for the World Juniors in December.

Getting Right Back At It

It’s always nice to celebrate a win, but the 67’s celebrations won’t be very long as they square off against the Oshawa Generals on Thanksgiving Monday at the Arena at TD Place at 2 p.m. The Generals come in after a shootout loss to the Niagara Ice Dogs and a day of rest. It’s another tough test for the 67’s, but they showed that they are up for it. It will likely be a game where Colin MacKenzie will get his first OHL start in goal, and it will be the first look at Calum Ritchie for the 67’s and their fans this season.

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