The Ottawa 67’s have held on to a playoff spot in the OHL’s Eastern Conference all season but are now in danger of missing the postseason for the first time since the 2013-14 season. With only a month remaining in the regular season, the 67’s have lost seven straight games, gaining only one point in that stretch and losing ground in the playoff race.
Defensive Growing Pains
Going into this season, it was clear that there would be growing pains with the young defensive core. With only 12 games left in the regular season, the 67’s are tied for last place in the OHL goals-against category at 237. Earlier this month, the team gave up 17 goals playing against the Owen Sound Attack and the Sudbury Wolves, far from ideal.
Another disappointing loss for the #67s, 7-5 to the Sudbury Wolves. Now 8 games below 500, in need of a big turn around in the last 15 games
— Kenny Walls (@LongBallsWalls) February 12, 2017
The young defensive core of Peter Stratis, Carter Robinson, and Kevin Bahl – all selected in the 2016 OHL Priority Selection – have shown signs of improvement and confidence this season. This bodes well for the future of the 67’s moving forward. Their improvement has also been noticed by head coach and General Manager Jeff Brown:
“Our guys are really buying into defense. It’s not perfect but it’s way better. We are limiting shots; at some point things are going to turn for us. You can’t quit, no excuses, we’re going to work hard and turn this thing around,” Brown told the media after a close game against the London Knights on Monday, who hold the title of defending Memorial Cup Champions.
— Ottawa 67’s (@Ottawa67sHockey) February 20, 2017
It appears the Ottawa 67’s are buying into team defense. Facing one of the OHL’s best in the Knights in front of over 6,000 fans on Monday, the 67’s kept the Knights to under 30 shots on goal – an impressive defensive accomplishment. The key for the 67’s to clinch a playoff berth will be to keep up this great defensive play and to limit their opponents’ scoring chances.
A Full Team Effort
Despite falling 4-2 to the Knights earlier this week, the 67’s put together a great game, which showcased a full team effort. The team created chances offensively, had great goaltending, and limited shots against. Brown spoke confidently that if the 67’s played like that down the stretch, they would have success this season and make it back to the postseason:
“The effort is encouraging today (vs. the Knights). A lot of young guys played hard. I told them (the players) if we keep giving that effort, things will turn for us. What you can control is your work ethic and that’s what we did today. I thought for the most part we worked very hard and battled the third best team in the country. That’s a nice team and we played stride for stride with them. I can’t ask for much more. If we give that effort against a lot of teams, obviously in the East, we will have our share of wins,” Brown told the media after Monday’s matchup against the Knights.
Sitting ninth in the Eastern Conference, the 67’s will need a full team effort for the remaining 12 regular season games as they try to clinch their third straight playoff berth. The team has the offensive skill to score, with Artur Tyanulin and Austen Keating leading the way up front and Noel Hoefenmayer on the point. The key to success will be to continue blocking shots and limiting their opponents’ offensive chances.