ST. CATHARINES — It has to be one of the only rinks left in hockey that still sells an actual spot to stand along the rails up top.
And if the fans who pack every corner in the Jack Gatecliff Arena Friday night seem a little hungry for a winner, keep in mind it has been a while between trips to the final for any team from the Garden City. (The game is on Rogers 22 at 7 p.m.)
The faithful here have to go back almost four decades to 1973-74 when the then Black Hawks reached (and won) the then Ontario Hockey Association final with a cast of stars that included three 50-goal scorers in Rick Adduono, Dave Gorman and Wilf Paiement, with the support of Smiths Falls native Gary McAdam, who joined the team in a midseason trade with the Ottawa 67’s.
So while the 67’s have faced elimination before, three times, in fact, against the Barrie Colts in the previous round, it’s going to be like nothing they’ve experienced for Game 5 of the Eastern Conference final, which the Niagara IceDogs lead 3-1.
“When the crowd gets that loud, whether you are at home or on the road, you have to build off it. I think it’s going to be a lot of fun,” said 67’s Sean Monahan, who, game by game, has been reinforcing his case to be a top-three pick in the 2013 NHL draft. He has seven goals and 14 points through 17 games.
Just five nights ago, the 67’s seemed well positioned for an upset over the heavily favoured IceDogs after gaining a split on the road. But back-to-back losses at home have left them facing a sudden-death end to their season.
A win would mean the two go back to Ottawa on Sunday for Game 6, and, if necessary, a Game 7 would be right back here on Monday. But should it all end, the 67’s have enjoyed a remarkable run, ousting Belleville in six, bouncing back from being down 3-1 to top Barrie and now giving a loaded Niagara team all it can handle Not that they’re giving up, mind you. “Everyone is banged up …it’s the third round,” Monahan said. “But I think we have the right group of guys willing to do what it takes.”