67’s Youth Steps Up In Win Over Battalion

With a small break in the Capital City Challenge on Saturday afternoon, the Ottawa 67’s of the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) had the chance to return home to take on the North Bay Battalion for the third time this season. With the season series tied at one apiece, Ottawa controlled the pace of the game for large portions of time and sneaked out a 3-2 win. With seven players out of the lineup for various reasons, the 67’s had to rely on some young players to carry them over the finish line — something that they did despite all odds.

67’s Youth Playing With Energy

Injuries have been a continuing trend with this 67’s team and it has forced them to play some of their youngest players in key situations of the game. It’s taken a little while for some of them to really come around and make good on those opportunities, but game by game, you can see them becoming more competent OHL players, something that allowed them to beat a team as good as the Battalion on Saturday.

“Injuries is why they are there,” said Dave Cameron in reference to Brad Gardiner and Will Gerrior. “It’s an opportunity, but it comes down to consistency. They are young players, same as [Luca] Pinelli and [Chris] Barlas. It’s consistency. You gotta be able to do it shift after shift and you have to stay within the game on five on five. That’s how you progress and that’s the challenge. It’s quicker and there’s less time and you have to adapt to that.”

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

“It’s a fine line,” said Cameron. “We’re playing alright. Bad things happened to us but we have stuck with it. We were up 3-2 [in Oshawa on Friday night] and we had lots of chances, but we couldn’t get that goal and they tied it. They found a way to win in overtime just like we did tonight. It’s a fine line.”

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Brady Stonehouse has been one of the best examples of a young player who is doing his fair share of things. Not only does he continue to be the guy that is going to get under the skin of the opponent, but he has also started getting more involved offensively, especially when it comes to the more flashy plays. He’s becoming very comparable to Ottawa Senators’ captain, Brady Tkachuk.

“I just think that’s my game,” said Stonehouse. “Showing good leadership, playing hard, getting to the dirty areas and bury it when I can. Guys just gotta step up and I’m happy to take that role. The chance was given to me and I took it.”

Jack Dever and Cooper Foster

With all of the absences the 67’s have suffered, Jack Dever and Cooper Foster were recalled and made their OHL debuts on Friday night in Oshawa. Both players have spent the season playing junior “A” hockey after attending training camp in October, but they came into the lineup and added some much-needed jump to the team.

“I liked their games,” said Cameron. “I thought they gave us some good minutes. There were some other guys that were good too. I thought [Brad] Gardiner was good, [Steven] LaForme is starting to play better, so there are some good guys who were in secondary roles finding their way.”

Cooper Foster Ottawa 67's
Cooper Foster, Ottawa 67’s (Josh Kim / The Hockey Writers)

Dever picked up his first point in Oshawa on Friday night and Foster registered his first point on Saturday, making a beautiful pass to Cam Tolnai to tie the game. Foster led the rush late in the game and sent a nice saucer pass into the middle of the ice that was picked up by Tolnai, who promptly buried it right under the crossbar, just over the shoulder of Joe Vrbetic.

“You can tell that they have that confidence that a lot of the junior ‘A’ guys come in with where they hold onto the puck,” said Tolnai. “Especially Foster there. Some of the guys at the beginning of the year are just dumping that in or throwing it on the net, but he showed a lot of poise there and fed me a nice pass and I was able to put it in.

Jack [Dever] has been good,” he continued. “Yesterday he got an assist from working hard. They both have been really good for how little time they have been with us.”

67’s Gutting Out Points

The past handful of weeks have been tough for the 67’s. There has been a revolving door of players getting injured, and now with a suspension and two players playing in the Capital City Challenge this week, their lineup became even more depleted. Seven regulars were missing from the lineup, but they still found a way to get the win.

Related: Capital City Challenge Day 1: Ritchie, Poulin Have Strong Starts

“We found a way,” said Cameron. “We didn’t have the best game, but good teams find a way to win.”

Vsevolod Gaidamak, Ottawa 67's
Vsevolod Gaidamak, Ottawa 67’s (Photo by Jon Halpenny / Ottawa 67’s)

The past couple of weeks have been difficult and included a weekend sweep where the 67’s suffered three losses, but other than that weekend, they have been doing a good job of coming away from most weekends with more than half of the available points. They are keeping their heads above water, even without seven regulars.

“Feeling pretty good, it’s nice to get back in the win column,” said Tolnai. “We played really well [in Oshawa] and unfortunately didn’t get the win with a bad break, but we had a much better turnaround this weekend. Good week of practice and it kind of translated into today.”

Finishing the Weekend in Peterborough

Having already secured three of the four available points this weekend and getting a measure of revenge against the Battalion, the 67’s head to Peterborough for a Sunday afternoon matinee. The last time the two teams met, the Petes ran away with the game, but over the past week, they have gotten a massive piece back into their lineup. Mason McTavish is back in Peterborough and they aren’t the same team that they were from the start of the season. It won’t be an easy game, but neither was playing Oshawa or North Bay. If nothing else, you should be expecting a good fight and the #NoQuit attitude coming to the forefront once more.

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