What was once one of the Ottawa 67’s fiercest rivalries is showing early signs of a comeback in 2010-11.
The Oshawa Generals, who beat the 67’s just once in six tries last year (and that in a shootout), then only seven times in regulation over the past five seasons, are a contender once more after several lean seasons.
The Generals find themselves in unfamiliar territory in recent times, undefeated at 3-0 atop the Ontario Hockey League’s East Division after topping the 67’s 6-3 in Ottawa’s home opener before a crowd of 9,897 at the newly-named Rona Centre on Friday night in a game in which both teams were minus key personnel due to early season suspensions for fighting.
Rona won out for the naming rights to the Civic Centre for a next 12 months in a draw by 67’s owner Jeff Hunt between the second and third periods.
Perhaps the 67’s coaching staff might want to stop one of the local Rona’s today to see if they can find the tools to fix what’s wrong with the 67’s power play. The unit remains under construction after an 0-for-5 night, making it 2-for-15 on the season.
The Generals, meanwhile, are happy with their start and would like to think this season they will be playing past early March.
“It’s about time,” said Generals defenceman Scott Valentine, who grew up in Metcalfe. “I felt like there was a curse on us here. It’s been a tough couple of years.
“But it’s a whole different attitude. Last year, we had guys playing for us, going out not expecting to win. Now we’re going out expecting to win. We have some firepower up front and some guys on the back end and it looks promising. A lot of guys here are excited by where we’re going.”
Oshawa scored first before the 67’s struck for a pair of goals 2:16 apart midway through the first with Shane Prince completing a nifty passing play and Cody Lindsay doing like-wise.
J.P. Labardo opened the game’s scoring at 4:29 after a stretch of end-to-end action that included 67’s netminder Petr Mrazek being shaken by a hit from one of his own defenders. Play continued and Mrazek skated off the effects. He went on to make 39 saves.
Lucas Lessio tied the game early in the second with the first of three straight goals by the Generals, the others coming from Alain Berger and Kyle Hope.
Ottawa’s Ryan Hanes drew the 67’s to within one at 17:27 as the teams went end to end for much of the entertaining second period.
That was as close as they got.
“I thought it was a track meet out there,” said 67’s coach Chris Byrne. “But they’re a good team.
“We have some work to do and I didn’t think we pressed them on the forecheck enough. It was something we had talk about all week.”
Christian Thomas, son of ex-NHLer Steve, iced it 14:53 into the third and Oshawa added en empty-netter in the final minute.