The first game of the season for the Ottawa 67’s took them to Kingston for their first of 12 dates with the Frontenacs this season. After the tremendously successful 2018-19 and 2019-20 seasons, the 67’s return to the ice with lower expectations. The Fronts laid a beating on Ottawa in their home opener, winning the game 8-1 and outshooting the 67’s 35-15. It’s a game that the 67’s will be hoping to flush from their memory as soon as possible, but on the flip side, it’s a game that the Frontenacs made a statement with. A statement that says they are for real, and they intend on doing some serious damage this season.
Through the preseason, the start of games was something that hurt the 67’s. They found themselves playing catch-up more often than not, and that’s not something that changed in their season opener in Kingston. Three of the first four shots on goal found the back of the net, landing the Fronts an early 3-0 lead.
It’s a little too early into the season to suggest that this is something that is going to keep coming up, but it’s certainly something the 67’s need to clean up going forward. With a young team with as little experience as this iteration of the 67’s brings to the table, starting strong is critical. Not falling behind early in the game would allow them to play with just a little bit less pressure. It is even more important when playing against a team like the Frontenacs (who the 67’s will see 11 more times this season) who have the ability to score goals in bunches.
The best way to describe the start of the hockey game from a 67’s perspective is sloppy. Passes hopping over the sticks of defencemen, passes being generally inaccurate and even thrown to an area of the ice where only Frontenacs players stood. As the period progressed, the 67’s cleaned some things up, but the passing was something that plagued them for the duration of the first period.
The 67’s registered only five shots on goal in the entire period, and two of those came on dump-ins from outside of the Kingston blue line. Without the crisp passing you would hope to see, the 67’s couldn’t find a way into the offensive zone, and in a couple of instances where they did, it was a one-and-done opportunity. Starting as poor as they did put them behind the eight ball immediately, a place you really don’t want to be against any team that Shane Wright plays for.
Keeping Up With Kingston Proves Difficult
For much of this game, the 67’s looked like they were chasing their own tails trying to get themselves into the game, but it just never seemed to click for them. To put things into perspective, the Frontenacs come into this season as a potential Memorial Cup favourite, returning many of their best players from the 2019-20 season while the 67’s come in rebuilding in a sense, having lost many of the players that made them tick the last time they played.
Going into Kingston, it was a known fact that the Fronts would have the advantage. The talent and Ontario Hockey League (OHL) experience was going to make it very difficult for Ottawa to come out on top. For stretches in the second period, the 67’s looked to have ceased some level of control, but after a goal courtesy of Dylan Robinson acted as a poke to a sleeping beast, the Fronts took over the game, scoring four more goals to end the period.
The 67’s got an early preview of what many teams around the OHL, and possibly others around the Canadian Hockey League (CHL) will run into this season. They are a skilled team with an immense amount of talent and speed that can throw a wrench into any game plan the opposing team has. The Frontenacs first line consisting of Paul Ludwinski, Wright, and Martin Chromiak scored a combined seven points on the night. That line was virtually unstoppable the entire game, and they are going to cause some problems for a lot of teams this season.
The 67’s and Frontenacs have always been natural rivals considering the number of times they play each other in a given season. Some say that distance makes the heart grow fonder, but for these two teams, the missed season has only made them dislike each other that much more. Including the preseason, these two teams have now met three times in a short period of time, and with 11 more games against each other coming up this season, the rivalry is only going to grow stronger.
In the 2019-20 season, it was the 67’s who were routinely putting up numbers against the Frontenacs, but after much time away, those roles have been reversed. The Frontenacs are the top dog in the OHL, and the 67’s are looking ahead while still trying to win as many games as possible this season.
The 67’s got a taste of their own medicine in a sense, and it’s not something that they are going to like. It’s just one game, but there’s no hiding how tough it was for the young group.
No Reason to Panic
Despite the score and massive difference in shots on goal, there is little reason for 67’s fans to panic. The realistic expectations surrounding this team have them somewhere in the five to eight range in the Eastern Conference standings. While games against Kingston aren’t going to be easy, they aren’t an opponent the 67’s are expecting to beat that often this season. The 67’s will be on home ice against these very Frontenacs on Sunday afternoon at 2 PM, the first time since March of 2020 the 67’s have been permitted to have a full capacity crowd in the Arena at TD Place.
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!