By Jared Crozier, SenShot
The Ottawa 67's needed something good to happen in the final game of their season opening 4 game homestand. And Tyler Graovac put the team on his shoulders in the first period and delivered the goods. His teammates followed the lead, and the resulting 8-1 romp was just what the doctor ordered for the young Ottawa club.
It was a quick start for Ottawa as Graovac snapped a shot over the shoulder of Oscar Dansk 29 seconds in. Just over 3 minutes later Graovac scored again from the other side as he walked off the boards and snapped one past to make it the Ottawa Graovacs 2, Erie 0. It didn't take long for those wondering if he would get the hat trick to get their answer. A shorthanded breakaway ay the 8:07 mark and the natural hatty was in the books. Erie got on the board as Connor Brown converted a nice down low pass from Connor McDavid on an Otters power play.
Ottawa continued to put the proverbial boots to the Otters in the 2nd, as quick strikes from Sean Monahan and Remy Giftopoulos 29 seconds apart upped the lead to 5-1. I thought that might be the end of Dansk for the afternoon, but coach Robbie Ftorek stuck with him. Nick Betz, no doubt in an effort to boost the morale of his struggling club, squared off with Daniel Walsh for the second scrap of the game. Walsh didn't fare so well as the Otters forward did all the throwing, with the 67's rookie on the receiving end. The 67's carried the four goal cushion into the dressing room, and remained on pace to allow fewer than 30 shots (18 through 40 minutes).
If it wasn't already decided, Brett Gustavsen pounced on a loose puck in the goalmouth and buried his first of the season to make it 6-1 before the third period was 3 minutes old. Erie had their best chance to put a dent in the lead with a 5 on 3 for a full 2 minutes, after Taylor Fielding was given a major and a match penalty for slew-footing and then Tyler Graovac was sent off for tripping. Ottawa's penalty killers did a yeoman's job killing it off, allowing only 2 shots. Ottawa notched a power play goal of its own soon after the kill, with Giftopoulos scoring his second of the game. Ottawa's Connor Brown (the Otters also have a player named Connor Brown) added the final nail in the coffin, batting a rebound past Dansk for his first OHL goal.
Jacob Blair made 22 saves for his first OHL victory.
Observations & Musings
Finally getting the monkey off their backs was a great thing for the 67's. They don't play at home much in October, so getting the first win was paramount before the become road warriors. Yes, the win came against one of the weaker teams in the "O", but at this point a win is a win and no doubt a good feeling, especially for the rookies in the lineup.
The line juggling continued as Chris Byrne continues tolook for a consistent combination. Andrew Abou-Assaly was out with rookie Taylor Davis making his first appearance, as the 67's went back to 7 defensemen. Not necessarily a plan I am fond of, but it worked against Erie as they went primarily with 3 lines, spotting the fourth set of wingers sparingly.
It was probably the best game of Graovac's OHL career, as in addition to the first period hat trick, he also had a goal waved off and wired a shot off the crossbar in the second. He could easily have scored a six-pack in this one.
Connor McDavid showed remarkable poise foe a 15 year old and will be a star in the OHL for years. His awareness with and without the puck is already at a high level and he is playing prime minutes. As the Otters rebuild around him (they didn't even win 10 games last season), they should become a force to be reckoned with, but they aren't there yet.