For the first time this season, the Ottawa 67’s of the Ontario Hockey League have dropped two consecutive games in regulation time. After a tough night in North Bay, the 67’s made their way to Sudbury to take on the Wolves while still exceptionally short-handed, especially after Ranvir Gill-Shane did not dress for their game on Friday night. Gill-Shane took a hard hit in the second period of the game in North Bay and did not return; however, there has been no word on an injury status from the team. The Wolves took the game by a score of 4-2 and looked in control of the game for the majority of it. Here’s what you missed from the loss.
67’s Commiting Undisciplined and Untimely Penalties
After the game in Sudbury, the 67’s have become the league’s most penalized team when it comes to times short-handed. On 78 occasions, they have been a man down in just 18 games, averaging just under four and a half penalties a game. While they have been killing them at a solid rate (78.2%), that still leaves them allowing nearly a goal per game on the power play.
This is certainly something that has alarm bells ringing, especially considering that the 67’s aren’t known to be a dirty team. They have gotten themselves into some hot water this season with the stick and restraining fouls. Those include the hooking, slashing, holding, and other related calls that you want to avoid. However, there is one thing that is becoming concerning for the 67’s, and it comes when they get frustrated, particularly on the road. That kind of thing reared its ugly head on Friday night.
The Wolves had a goal disallowed for goaltender interference, and while the player in front of the net began skating away, Dylan Robinson skated past him and raised his arm, hitting the Wolves’ player directly in the head with his forearm/elbow. While the goal was being reviewed, Robinson was ejected from the game, being assessed a five-minute major and game misconduct for checking to the head. You could argue the validity of a couple of calls going against the 67’s on the night, but not this one. It was clear and obvious, and it’s more than likely this will cost Robinson some time in the stands.
This is the kind of thing the 67’s need to avoid, especially while they are without some of their most veteran forwards. This play from Robinson was simply silly and unnecessary as well as being a dangerous play. What was said in the locker room post-game about it will never be known, but one would have to imagine head coach Dave Cameron wouldn’t be too happy about it. They can’t allow frustration to get to their head and they have to clean up some of the stick and restraining fouls and if they can do that, they stand a good chance of cutting down on their goals against and, in turn, winning more close hockey games.
67’s In Need of Backup
It’s not an excuse and you might be tired of hearing about it by now, but every game the 67’s play without their veteran forwards is a game they will have a hard time winning. The OHL and junior hockey as a whole is a game where you win and lose with your 18, 19, and 20-year-olds on many occasions. This season, those players have been few and far between for the 67’s and they currently have a handful of impactful players on the shelf.
Jack Beck was the 67’s best forward and possibly best skater on the ice for the first 12 games, scoring at nearly a goal per game pace and better than a point per game pace. Adam Varga is the team’s lone over-age player this season and brings invaluable experience and a sense of calm to the young players. Thomas Johnston has been really good this season; however, he was sitting out the second game of a two-game suspension. Gill-Shane was, of course, the most recent addition to those not playing, as mentioned earlier.
All of this means that an already inexperienced 67’s team lost plenty of experienced veterans in short order, leaving the heavy lifting to be done by others. When watching their most recent set of games, it’s clear that while they do have plenty of promising young talent, none of them are really ready to step up and fill the boots of a player with the quality of Beck or Varga. That shouldn’t come as any kind of surprise, after all, they are young players and aren’t supposed to be elite right off the hop.
To their credit, they have been competitive through this tough stretch while missing these big names. It shows massive amounts of promise and that the ceiling is ever so high for this young group, but if you asked Cameron, he would most certainly opt for a fully healthy lineup that featured his older players.
Derek Smyth Scores First OHL Goal
You might be reading this thinking that the road trip was terrible and there was nothing good to come out of it, especially after reading the first couple of sections in this piece, but that wasn’t the case at all for the 67’s this week. They may have been handed a couple of losses, and sure, no one likes to lose and it makes the good feel less important, but there was plenty to build off going forward. One of those things came on Friday night when rookie defenceman Derek Smyth opened the scoring in Sudbury, scoring his first goal in the OHL.
A first goal in the OHL is always impressive, but the path he took to get there is more impressive in this situation. The big defenceman didn’t get playing time in the pandemic canceled season and the highest level he had consistently played before was U16 hockey with the Niagara North Stars of the SCTA. The 67’s took a flyer of the St. Catherines, Ontario native in the 11th-round of the 2020 OHL Priority Selection and expectations were relatively low as they are with most players taken in a similar position.
When Smyth arrived at camp, he made an immediate impact playing his stout defensive style of hockey. There was still some conniving to do and he struggled at times in the preseason, leaving him the odd man out when the regular season kicked off in October. However, it didn’t take long for him to get into the lineup, and right from the word go, he fit in and made a difference on the team. He has looked really good early in his first season and has earned every single second of his playing time. The first goal is impressive, but so is the entire story so far for the young, towering defenceman.
The North Bay, Subdury Trip Is Always Difficult
We have learned in the past that the northern road trip that always features both North Bay and Sudbury is very difficult, even for the best of teams. Dropping the back-to-back in the best of circumstances was always possible, but throwing in all of the missing players, it was almost inevitable.
Flashback to the 2019-20 season when the 67’s brought one of the most dominant teams in junior hockey to the table. Their northern trip was one to forget. In that season, the Battalion was one of the worst teams in the league and only won 17 games all season long. The 67’s lost 6-2 when they met in North Bay in one of the worst losses of the season. They would rebound by beating the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds in overtime (a team the 67’s won’t play at all this season unless they were to meet in the OHL Final) but would lose to the Wolves 2-0 to close the weekend.
All of that to say this, even the best teams have struggled with this road trip in the past and the 67’s would have definitely been feeling those bus legs at the end of games. Unlike in seasons past, the 67’s will have a chance to make this trip again in January, but it will be up to them to reverse this trend and win a tough game in a tough situation. They have the talent to get that done when the time comes, but they need to be up to the task.
67’s Return Home Sunday
If there is one thing to be looking forward to this weekend, it’s the 67’s returning home to take on the Peterborough Petes for the second time this season from the Arena at TD Place. The last time the two met, the 67’s power-play unit lifted them to a win scoring a couple of times on a major penalty against J.R. Avon in the third period. Coming away with no points on the weekend would be a real disappointment after being ranked eighth on the CHL top 10 rankings, so you know they will be coming out of the gates looking to secure at least two points for their troubles.
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!