Halloween Scaries: What’s Holding the 67’s Back?

Halloween is one of the best holidays. If you’re going to a party, trick or treating with the family, or staying in and watching horror movies, there are many ways to celebrate. It’s one of those days that rules – especially those related to the office or school dress code – go out the window, and you see what interesting costumes people come up with. The theme of the day is horror, of course, which can even be found in your average hockey game.

What could possibly be scarier than turnovers in the neutral zone that lead to offensive chances the other way? Maybe you’re given the fright of your life by a penalty kill that doesn’t seem to kill many penalties. Well, those are just some of the spooky things holding the Ottawa 67’s of the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) back this season.

Friday Night Games Resulting in Losses

The 67’s might be on the right path after beating the Kingston Frontenacs on Friday night in overtime, but otherwise, Friday nights have been unkind to Ottawa. A night that is often reserved for partying has been a tough one for the 67’s, who have a 1-3 record in their four Friday night games this season. Their record on any other day is 5-1, and there has been an almost inexplicable difference in their play.

Jack Matier Ottawa 67s
Jack Matier, Ottawa 67s (Josh Kim / The Hockey Writers)

How exactly this problem gets fixed is up to the players and coaching staff, but, put simply, they need to come to the rink ready to play their best on Friday nights. Easy, right? Well, not really. It’s not like they are arriving unprepared or unwilling to put in a full effort, but it seemed like there was a supernatural force surrounding them before they found a way to win in Kingston on their fourth Friday night game of the season.

This issue may not have a good solution. They must play their game as they would on any other night, and sometimes the results will go their way, and sometimes they won’t. It’s a trend that has been impossible to ignore more than a real problem. I expect it to level out before the end of the season.

67’s Penalty Kill Getting Burned

The 67’s most recent weekend series against the Frontenacs also sparked a fix in their penalty killing. It has been a sore spot to start the season, to say the least, but over the weekend, they were given 14 opportunities to kill off one of the most dangerous power-play units in the OHL. A line that included Shane Wright, Martin Chromiak, and others is always a threat to score. They hit the scoresheet a couple of times, but the 67’s only surrendered three goals.

Ranvir Gill-Shane Ottawa 67's
Ranvir Gill-Shane Ottawa 67’s (Frankie Benvenuti, The Hockey Writers)

A few games ago, the 67’s ranked 19th in penalty-kill percentage with a 68.4% success rate. They have been improving and, as a result, that number has slowly crept up. As of Halloween, they rank 13th with a 77.8% success rate. Things have changed from expecting the 67’s to give up a power-play goal to a feeling of confidence that they can and will kill it off.

Related: 67’s Parade to Penalty Box In Loss to Frontenacs

The key now is to continue improving. They are on the right track, and with a team that is almost all new to the league, their slow start in some categories is not surprising. As the team grows and develops together, you should see the penalty killing get better, as we have seen so far. That growth needs to continue, but there’s no reason to expect it won’t.

Inexperience Including Pinelli, Barlas, and Gerrior

The 67’s aren’t being held back by any player in particular, but their overall lack of experience is holding them back, especially from some of their rookies. It’s common to see young OHL players struggle to bury their scoring chances. In 2019-20, Thomas Johnston had chance after chance, but for one reason or another, he struggled to score all season. Now in his second season, some of those chances have gone his way, and he has been scoring.

This season, the same thing is happening. Players like Luca Pinelli, Chris Barlas, Will Gerrior, Bradley Gardiner, and Brady Stonehouse have had chances, but they haven’t found the back of the net. I want to reiterate that this is normal, and the 67’s are not being held back because of anything their rookies are doing wrong, but rather the lack of experience on the team.

Luca Pinelli, Ottawa 67's
Luca Pinelli, Ottawa 67’s (Frankie Benvenuti, The Hockey Writers)

Young players rarely enter the league as the best they can or will be. There is always room for improvement, and as they get older, their play usually gets better. There will be growing pains, and that’s just something the 67’s will have to accept after opting to ice only one over-age player this season. They have intentionally opted for youth, and it’s easy to see why with the upside many of their young players have.

67’s Ahead of Schedule

It was expected to be more or less a rebuilding season for the 67’s in 2021-22. They should be in the playoffs, but some extreme predictions had them ranked near the bottom of the league. That hasn’t been the case, and it seems like they are ahead of schedule on their quest to get back to the elite level they reached before the pandemic. As you can see, many of the issues that have been a problem early on are already getting better. The 67’s are a good team, and they will be competitive this season, at the very least.

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