The Ottawa 67’s of the Ontario Hockey League opened their final weekend of regular-season action ahead of the Christmas break with a game against the Peterborough Petes. The Peterborough Memorial Centre has proven to be a difficult place for a young 67’s squad that has been looking to find its footing since things turned sour for them in the middle of November.
On Thursday night, it was more of the same for the 67’s, dropping another contest against an Eastern Conference rival by a score of 4-1. Perhaps the score doesn’t quite do the game justice, it was a close-run affair that, on another night, could have been a bit closer on the scoreboard, but it’s been some of the same issues that have sunk Ottawa in their run of struggles in the past month.
67’s Biteless Attack
Aside from a goal from Brenden Sirizzotti midway through the second period, the 67’s attack was far from threatening. They fired 28 shots on Michael Simpson, the Petes’ goaltender, but not many of them would be considered high-quality or dangerous chances. They seldomly produced sustained offensive zone time, and they couldn’t create chaos in front of the Peterborough goal, something that in the past has been the key ingredient for the offence.
Health and general availability from players have been one of the reasons for this, of course. When you are missing Jack Beck, Vsevolod Gaidamak, Vinzenz Rohrer, and Adam Varga, it’s not difficult to see why things might be thrown for a loop. If you were to ask Dave Cameron or Norm Milley about that, however, they would likely tell you that this is an opportunity for some of the younger players to step up and take control, something they haven’t been able to do.
For one reason or another, those young players have done just about everything right, with the exception of scoring goals. They have gotten some great games from Brad Gardiner, Will Gerrior, Chris Barlas, and Luca Pinelli, but right now, they need some goals from some of those players, no matter how unfair of an ask that might be.
This isn’t to say that those players, in particular, are the reason the 67’s are losing games, that is far from the case. This is a collective effort and you win and lose as a team. To fault them would be like blaming the passengers on the Titanic for the iceberg being in the way, there’s not much they could have done. The 67’s are asking their young players to jump in those lifeboats before the crash and steer that iceberg away. It’s desperate and almost unfair to those young players, but they don’t have a choice. Injuries and other circumstances have forced their hand.
67’s Go Scoreless On Power Play
If you want to find the most disappointing part of the offence as of late, it would have to be the power play. Once again, it was shut down by the Petes, as the 67’s failed to score on any of their six attempts. This was a power-play unit that, at the start of the season, was among the most efficient groups, but since then, they find themselves scoring on just 19.3% of their chances, good for only 13th in the league.
Once again, you have to mention some of the injuries on the team making their lives difficult. Without Gaidamak, Rohrer, and Beck, the 67’s were missing 10 of their 22 total goals on the power play this season. Expecting them to continue to click at a high rate, missing what they are isn’t realistic, but when you are given six chances in a close game, getting a goal or two would have been massive.
The worst part about the power play on Thursday night wasn’t the inability to score, but rather the fact that the only goal that came on a 67’s power-play belonged to the Petes. There’s a bit of a tendency for the team as a whole to forget about the defensive side of the ice when they have a man advantage, and for the fourth time this season, the 67’s conceded a short-handed goal. It’s just another thing to add to the list of things to work on.
Will Cranley Solid Once More
In a time where the positives have sometimes been hard to come by, there is a shining light in the darkness by the name of Will Cranley. The St. Louis Blues sixth-round pick in 2020 has been unquestionably one of the best goaltenders in the OHL this season, and while his record might not indicate it, he has helped the 67’s win a handful of games they maybe shouldn’t have won.
On Thursday night, we got another dose of the Cranley magic, as he tried to keep his team in the game for long enough to give them a chance to win. That didn’t quite happen for them, but it was through no fault of Cranley’s.
He turned aside 29 of the 33 shots the Petes fired at him, including a couple of stops on what should have been goals and likely would have been against just about any other goaltender in the league. He wasn’t named to the Canadian World Junior team, but there was a case to be made for why he should have. The way he’s been playing, there’s no doubt that the NHL is at least possible for him.
A Chance at Redemption
On Friday night, the 67’s will return to the Arena at TD Place in front of a reduced-capacity crowd, as the Ontario government tries to reduce the spread of the new Omicron variant. The opponent will be the Oshawa Generals, the same team the 67’s lost to just a week ago. They have a chance to come out and avenge themselves, and while that won’t be easy, this team always finds a way to stick around and be within striking distance. This stretch has been tough and some may be ready to get to the Christmas break. You haven’t seen the best of the 67’s just yet. There’s more to come.