By Jared Crozier, SenShot
Thursday night the Ottawa 67's paid there first visit to the Gatorade Garden City Complex in St. Catherine since the IceDogs eliminated the 67's from the playoffs last season.
Overage defenseman Jake Cardwell, scored a pair of power play goals, including the game winner as the 67's coughed up a two goal lead but came back to defeat the IceDogs 4-3. Keegan Wilson, returning to the 67's net from a lower body injury, was the other story as he withstood a barrage of rubber fired at him in all 3 periods.
For Ottawa, it was just the second win (first on the road) of the season, and a gritty effort all around. The IceDogs outshot the 67's 38-25.
To open the scoring, Steven Janes converted a feed from behind the net, snapping a quick shot past Christopher Festarini. Cardwell knifed in from the point and snapped home his first of the game with the man advantage. Sean Monahan set up both goals with nifty passes from behind the goal line. Luke Mercer scored with 7 seconds left, as the woeful IceDogs power play converted to bring them within one as the teams headed to the dressing room.
In the second, Tyler Graovac took a shot right off the faceoff that surprised Festarini to extend the 67's lead back to 2. Niagara owned the play for the majority of the middle frame, allowing Ottawa only 4 shots on goal, while firing 16 on Wilson, who turned them all away.
Niagara jumped out to a quick start in the third as Mitchell Theoret cut the lead in half in the first minute, and Mike Robinson tied it up five minutes later. Just like that all the work Ottawa had done to build the lead was wasted and it became a 15 minute game. Late in the period, with a 67's power play in its waning moments, Cardwell notched his second of the game to send the supporters from his hometown of Niagara Falls home happy. Dougie Hamilton had a great chance to tie the game in the dying moments, but his chance was turned away by a sprawling 67's defender as they hung on for the win.
OBSERVATIONS & MUSINGS
Import Richard Mraz made his OHL debut. He didn't see a ton of action, playing primarily on the third line.
Wilson was back in net after missing time with a lower body injury. He faced a big collision early on as Mike Cajkovsky knocked Brett Ritchie into his own goalie, but Wilson was able to continue.
Graovac has really stepped up and contributed offensively so far, and is only 2 goals shy of his total from last year and four shy of his career high of 10 set two seasons ago. It's about time too, because at 6'4" and over 200 lbs, with good hands you always expected more over the past couple of years. With Monahan and Graovac playing this way, Ottawa has a solid 1-2 punch up the middle.
Monahan did what he had to do, and that was to outplay his counterpart. Ryan Strome got the better of the 67's top forward when the clubs met in Ottawa earlier in the season, and Monahan turned the tables this time around. When this happens, Ottawa will have a chance to win most nights.