By: Barre Campbell – Ottawa67s.com Staff
Photo – Robert Lefebvre – Icelevel Hockey
OTTAWA – Friday night’s win for the Ottawa 67’s might have been one of their most important of the season.
It was a game few would have given them much of a chance to win. Captain Travis Konecny was out of the line-up with an upper-body injury and they were facing the big and burly Oshawa Generals, the top team in all of elite junior hockey and one that 67’s coach Jeff Brown freely admitted “have a shot of winning it all.”
For the Generals, Friday night’s 2-1 loss at TD Place might have been just a minor blip on their way to a league championship and, perhaps, a Memorial Cup win, but for the 67’s, the result was huge.
The win halted a four-game losing skid and moved the 67’s five points ahead of idle Niagara in the race for the fourth position on the Ontario Hockey League’s Eastern Conference table.
Given that Ottawa’s home-ice record has been far superior this season (23 wins at home versus only 12 on the road), landing that fourth-place spot is vitally important, as it would give them home-ice advantage in the opening round of the playoffs, which begin later this month.
Niagara trails by five points, but suddenly the Kingston Frontenacs are making waves, sitting just four points back of Niagara (the Fronts are 8-2-0-0 in their last 10 and have won five straight).
With teams creeping up the standings, such as Kingston, a result like Friday’s is vitally important for the 67’s.
Dante Salituro, Ottawa’s leading scorer, got the game’s first goal in the opening period during a power play. He had been crunched into the boards from behind by Oshawa’s Brad Latour, who received a double minor for the infraction. Salituro picked himself off the ice, went to the bench to catch his breath, then hustled back out to score as the first minor was expiring to give the 67’s a lead they wouldn’t relinquish.
Salituro counted the second goal, also during a powerplay, in the second period on a shot that ricocheted off an Oshawa defender and behind goalie Ken Appleby. Against a team like Oshawa (that keeps coming with wave upon wave upon wave), establishing that kind of cushion is vital.
Ottawa goalie Liam Herbst delivered a strong performance, stopping 31 shots. The only blemish came in the final minute of the middle period, when Senators’ prospect Tobias Lindberg struck from the left side to bring the Generals to within one.
The 67’s went into defend mode in the third, aiming only three shots on Appleby. They were able to hold the fort and, as coach Brown said after, “stole one that we probably shouldn’t have won.”
But he added, correctly, that the 67’s have also lost their fair share recently in games they probably should have won. So, it all balances, even on Friday the 13th.
Ottawa is back in action on Saturday night, making a final appearance by a 67’s team in Belleville before the Bulls move to Hamilton for the 2015-16.
Then the 67’s play on the road in North Bay before returning to TD Place next weekend to complete the regular season with games on Friday, March 20 against Peterborough (7:30 p.m.) and Sunday, March 22 against Sudbury (2 p.m.).
Tickets are available by calling 613-232-6767, or by visiting the team’s website.