By Jared Crozier, SenShot
Photo Cred: Darren Brown, Ottawa Sun
Perhaps the Ottawa 67’s should consider wearing pink every game. Wearing their annual Breast Cancer awareness jerseys, Taylor Fielding and Tyler Graovac each scored twice in a five goal second period to lead the Ottawa 67’s to a 6-2 win over the Kitchener Rangers on Sunday afternoon.
The teams played scoreless for a long time, at least for the 67’s this season, over 13 minutes. However, after killing off back to back penalties, the Rangers got on the board first when Owen Stubbert’s long point shot hit the top corner past a screened Keegan Wilson, who never saw it coming. Another surprise for Wilson a couple minutes later as Tobias Rieder’s wraparound was deflected in off a 67’s defender’s stick to double the lead. Ottawa was the benefit of a bounce of their own to get one of the goals back. Six seconds into a power play, Jake Cardwell’s shot deflected off a Ranger stick and then the skate of Richard Mraz. It was the Czech import’s first OHL goal. Ottawa spent just over 5 minutes on the power play in the first period but were still outshot 14-11 and trailed by one.
Ottawa evened it up early in the second as Steven Janes created a turnover below the goal line and fed a pass to Taylor Fielding who snapped it past John Gibson, before the two minute mark. Fielding notched his second of the period, this time a shorthanded marker, when he put the rebound of Tyler Graovac’s shot past Gibson. The nicest goal of the night came just after the 11 minute mark as Cardwell turned Max Iafrate inside out and the fed a cross crease feed to Graovac who scored his 8th of the season to make it 4-2. Brett Gustavson’s quick snap shot from the slot 40 seconds later ended Gibson’s afternoon. The goaltending change did nothing to stem the 67’s offensive outburst as Graovac netted his second of the period to welcome Franky Palazzese to the crease. When the dust had settled, a five goal explosion over twelve and a half minutes had them in the dressing room with a 6-2 lead.
The third period was all about protecting the lead, and not pressing much offensively. The strategy worked, as they only mustered 4 shots in the third but didn’t allow another goal against as Wilson was solid making 38 saves for the win.
OBSERVATIONS & MUSINGS
Sean Callaghan returned from injury and his physical play was immediately evidenced and showed why he was missed over the last . The underrated defensive stalwart won’t pile up the points (although he did have an assist today), but he is am important player for the 67’s.
Mike Vlajkov saved two goals with solid defensive plays early in the first. One of them earned a hooking penalty, but on both occasions the Rangers players were looking at empty nets with the puck on their sticks. Those types of plays don’t show on stats sheets, but in one or both of them go in it an entirely different game.
Graovac now has 9 goals in 9 games this season to put him in a tie for tops in the OHL. In 50 games last season he scored 8 times. Chalk it up to a combination of maturity and chances as he spent a lot of time in the shadow of Tyler Toffoli and Shane Prince for offensive situations last year.
Dylan Walsh, who got soundly defeated last time he scrapped, turned the tables this time as he scored an easy decision in a mid second period tilt with Darby Llewellyn.
I imagine the 67’s are glad they only play the Rangers twice a year, because winger Ben Thomson would get my vote as the biggest pest Ottawa has played against this young season. If there was a skirmish in this game, chances are Thomson was either in it, or started it.