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Ceci a hit on opening night

67’s 2, Bulls 1

A day after being named an honourable mention Top 10 pick for next June’s NHL draft, Cody Ceci made TSN’s Hockey Insider Bob McKenzie look like the genius he is.

Ceci, beginning his third Ontario Hockey League campaign though still only 17, got the new season started on the right foot by scoring the game-winning goal as the Ottawa 67’s turned back a stubborn Belleville Bulls squad in a scrambly Opening Night affair before 7,286 at the Civic Centre on Friday.

With the scored tied at 1-1, Ceci jumped in from the point on the power play on a feed from Sean Monahan and beat Malcolm Subban between the legs to give the 67’s the lead for good near the game’s midway point.

“It’s good to get the first win and good to get my first goal,” said Ceci. “It seemed like it took 30 (games) to get it last year.

“I did watch (McKenzie) and it was nice to see honourable mention and it gave me confidence and also some more motivation to work harder to try and crack the Top 10. But being Top 15 is really cool, too. I was happy just to see my name there.”

If it’s true that you have to dress for success, the 67’s looked the part in the return of the legendary barberpole jerseys and socks that were a mainstay of the 67’s from Day 1 only to disappear a couple of seasons back. The fans spoke: they wanted the barberpoles back and management listened.

The 67’s skated minus 91 goals and 191 points from last season with league goal-scoring champ Tyler Toffoli still at the L.A. Kings’ camp and centre Ryan Martindale hanging tough at the Edmonton Oilers’ camp as an unsigned draft pick.

Also absent is newcomer Michal Cajkovsky, a defenceman obtained via a trade with the Kingston Frontencs, who is being tried as a big winger with the Kings.

So instead of Martindale, Toffoli and Shane Prince as the No. 1 unit, it was sophomore Monahan between Prince, who two nights previous was skating with the Ottawa Senators, and 6-3 Prescott native Ryan Van Stralen, a 2009 draft who changed his path in hockey over the summer and signed with the 67’s.

And Prince needed all of 15 minutes to break out on what he hopes might be a 40-goal season. On one single shift, Prince missed on a breakaway and set up Steven Janes point-blank on Subban, before finally tucking one in on the short-side to put the 67’s in front.

That lead lasted until the fourth minute of the second period when Austen Brassard tipped a shot past Petr Mrazek with Belleville on the power-play.

Ceci, a world junior team prospect, restored the 67’s lead and if not for fanning on a couple of shots, he might have had three on the night.

Ceci won’t specify what numbers he wants to put up this season, but from midseason on last year he was always a threat to jump in offensively.

His confidence level has taken another leap this offseason and it’s safe to say his nine goals and 34 points in 2010-11 could easily turn into something close to 15 goals and 65 points.

The 67’s lost veteran winger Dalton Smith when Bull Brendan Guance steered the 67’s hardrock into the path of Subban and Smith’s elbow came up. Smith earned majors for fighting and elbowing, a game misconduct, and a probable suspension for the hit.

The 67’s play host to the Kingston Frontenacs on Sunday at 2 p.m. before heading on the road next weekend.

dcampbell@ottawacitizen.com

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