The Ottawa 67’s losing streak continued on Friday night in front of a sheepish crowd of 2,042 after the government of Ontario cut capacity limits for sporting events across the province. Despite the game finishing with a 4-2 scoreline favouring the Oshawa Generals, the 67’s turned in one of the better efforts we have seen from them in some time. This is a game that could have gone the other way with a couple of bounces, but there were situations where they certainly didn’t help themselves.
67’s Play Well, but Can’t Finish
Not all losses are created equal. On Friday night, the 67’s were every bit the Generals equal, and at times, you could say they were the better team. They opened the scoring just 29 seconds into the game courtesy of a nice shot off the stick of Alec Belanger, but they couldn’t keep pace with Oshawa’s attack, specifically Ty Tullio.
Despite outshooting the Generals 34-29, the 67’s could only muster a pair of goals, while Tullio once again exploded offensively. His numbers against the 67’s this season have been impressive, even more so when you consider his numbers being nowhere as good when playing against other opponents. Even though things didn’t go their way, there was plenty to be happy about in the Ottawa dressing room.
“There’s obviously a ton of positives,” said 67’s forward Thomas Johnston. “We played the right way as a team. We didn’t get the bounces we wanted, they got a few good bounces, but our effort was there. We played from the first period to the third, ups and downs here and there, but we stuck through it. The outcome didn’t show how we played but we’re going to build from that because I think that was a good game as a team.”
Those positives are what the 67’s are hoping starts becoming wins. As of late, the positives (when there are any) have been coming without reward. They have now lost four consecutive games, and the month of December has been one to forget. Perhaps the time off during the Christmas break will allow them to get healthy and get back to their winning ways from the start of the season, but for now, they are content to take the good with the bad and build for the future.
67’s Special Teams Let Them Down Again
For the second consecutive night, the 67’s failed to register a power-play goal, missing many chances to make this game closer. Unlike their last game in Peterborough, they had chances, but they just couldn’t get them to stick. Luca Pinelli, in particular, looked dangerous on the power play, but he couldn’t get the puck to settle down for him. At the end of the game with a chance to tie, however, the 67’s had a five-minute man advantage that was a gift-wrapped opportunity to get back into the game. They couldn’t take advantage and ended up leaving the rink with no points.
“We’ll continue to get better and get more on the same page,” said acting head coach Norm Milley. “I thought our breakouts and our entries were 50/50, sometimes we weren’t on the same page, sometimes we were. We’ve gotta clean that up, but overall, I like the effort.”
It hasn’t just been the power play that has struggled as of late either. The penalty kill has also been struggling, something that has become a big problem considering the lack of goal scoring coming for the 67’s recently. While it was better on Friday night, there are still things to work out.
“As far as the penalty kill goes, I think the goal they scored against us was an unlucky bounce,” Milley said. “I think we were in good body position, we went to block a shot and it hit one of our sticks and went back post to Tullio. That was an unfortunate bounce, but the main thing we always talk about is the effort. The effort was there, so when we look at the game tape tonight, we can start to build and get better.”
“As a coaching staff and as a group, you can’t ask for much more than that, so now we can get better and move forward and get right back at it tomorrow.”
Omicron Variant Overshadows
Overshadowing the entire night was the threat of COVID-19, as the Omicron variant has helped spike cases in Ontario. Five of the 10 scheduled games in the OHL on Friday night were postponed after numerous teams have been forced to suspend operations. This of course is wearing on people around the province, but the players are no different.
“I think as a group we have done a good job of keeping away the distractions,” said Milley. “The only thing we can control is today. We come to the rink and are ready to play tomorrow and whatever happens, happens. That’s something we can’t control. We always try to have a mindset of a next-day mentality and they are human beings, it’s normal. You see the NHL and their numbers are going up and they are starting to shut down leagues around the area here, so it’s normal to filter through your minds.”
“Especially for the older guys with the uncertainty a couple of years ago. A few of our older guys lost the opportunity to finish out their careers here and having a chance to win. For sure, it’s probably on the minds of our older guys.”
“There’s obviously going to be talk here and there throughout the locker room,” said Johnston. “Everyone knows, there’s talk everywhere, especially with something like this. We’re just doing our best as a team to stick to the league’s protocols, do the right thing. We’re wearing our masks, we’re keeping our distance, we’re doing the right things. We can’t control anything, we’re just going to control what we can do to keep ourselves safe and do our part.”
One Last Go Before Christmas
With everything coming to a boiling point, the 67’s have one more game before the Christmas break. It will be a welcome break for everyone surrounding the team. It’s a chance to spend time with family in this uncertain time and it’s a time for rest and relaxation, something this team needs. Before then, they have a date with the Barrie Colts on Saturday afternoon in Ottawa. It’s another game where Ottawa will be the underdog on paper, but an effort like the one they turned in on Friday night would give them a half-decent chance at victory.