The Ottawa 67’s played host to the Oshawa Generals for the sixth time of the 2021-22 Ontario Hockey League season on Friday night in a game that got emotional for both sides. It was sparked by a rivalry that goes back a long time and two competitive teams reaching the boiling point. The Generals made the best of their chances while the 67’s got frustrated, and Oshawa takes home a win by a score of 5-1. Without talking about a certain aspect of the game, let’s get right into it.
Heat of the Moment Gets to 67’s
When the 67’s needed the cool heads in this game, they just couldn’t get out of their own way. They allowed what was happening with the officials to get into their heads, and it impacted how they played, particularly in the third period. Their focus got away from scoring goals and getting the game level and changed into how can we draw a penalty. This got them trapped in their own zone, and rather than generating offence, they just waited for the arm to shoot up. With how the game was going, that was never likely to happen.
“I don’t think the score dictated the game,” said Norm Milley who is filling in as head coach while Dave Cameron is away at the World Juniors. “I thought we had some good looks, I thought we had some good looks on the power play. I think we got away from our game in the second period. We didn’t do a good job as a group to manage our emotions. The refs made some calls and it is what it is, and we can’t change that. We gotta do a better job as a group to manage our emotions, and not let that take the best of us.”
“I think the most part it’s our older guys who were losing their emotions on the bench and on the ice,” said Milley. “Our younger guys did a good job of actually controlling their emotions and having a pretty good attitude on the bench. Myself included, I was getting a little heated inside and it was tough to control my emotions in the heat of the moment, but it’s normal for us. We haven’t gone through this kind of stretch where we are up and down. It was an emotional and physical game and they played hard.”
One of those older players that Milley is looking for to calm the bench down is defenceman, Alec Belanger. Coming back from an injury at the start of the season has left him searching for his game, and he scored a big goal in the first period to not only tie the game but also score his first goal of the season. As a leader, however, he knows that he needs to do his part to help make sure everyone is as positive as they can be on the bench.
“I think it’s always tricky when you’re a young team,” said Belanger. “You’re just trying to find your way and find what your game is. We have a lot of emotional and passionate guys, and I think that’s a good thing. We just have to make sure as older guys that the energy is positive.”
“We just have to lead by example on the ice,” he continued. “Don’t talk too much, just do your thing on the ice. Remind the guys to settle down. It’s too bad the pushback fell short in the third, but I feel like the guys got the message.”
Will Cranley Dominant Again
When the Canadian World Junior team announced their Selection Camp roster, everyone was upset about players like Brandt Clarke and Matthew Savoie not being invited, but not one word was uttered about Will Cranley not being invited. The St. Louis Blues sixth-round draft choice in 2020 has been on another planet this season, and that was no different on Friday night. It’s getting to the point where you have to ask why he was left off, and even more so, is he currently the best goaltender in the OHL?
“He’s outstanding,” said Milley. “First period he gave us a chance to get back in the game. He’s been outstanding for us all year takeaway the first game of the season. He’s been great for us and we’re a group who’s not going to score five or six goals. We’re a group that knows we have to dig in and we need goaltending and the goaltending has been great for us.”
“It feels good to have a pro-calibre goalie in the net every night,” said Belanger. “When I started with him at 16, he was already a great goalie and he’s getting better every year. I’m really proud of him and I’m really happy for him. He’s a big part of our team, and I’m sure it’s going to keep going in the right direction for him. I really appreciate him being out there.”
When you watch Cranley practice, it’s no surprise why he has been so successful this season. He’s constantly working on things and he’s one of the hardest-working players on the ice. He refuses to finish a drill with a bad rep, and he will continue to make whoever is helping him do it one more time until he’s happy. Cranley has legitimate potential to be a starting goaltender in the NHL someday, and with the way he works, it should surprise no one if/when he does that.
Missed Chances Cost 67’s
One of the themes for the 67’s continues to be missed opportunities, but on Friday night, they came tantalizingly close on a couple of occasions. Whether it’s being denied by the goal post, a diving goaltender, or a pass just being out of reach and negating a breakaway, it just seems like the 67’s are a tiny click off offensively.
“We had some real good looks there. Cam Tolnai had two. The goalie made a great save on one and he hit the post on the second,” said Milley. “That could have [tied] the game and who knows from there? As the time was winding down you’re just trying to think of the mindset of the players. We’re a group that has a lot of something that you can’t recreate with a lot of care for each other. We’re gonna learn from it, we’re gonna grow and we’re going to trust in the process.”
With such a young group, it’s easy to see why the offence isn’t coming as it did in seasons past, but there is still hope for that to turn around in the second half of the season and into next season. With this young group, there is plenty to like. Everyone is being asked to play a role they aren’t quite ready for just yet, but when they come back from Christmas break, players usually take that next step in their development. Coupled with players coming back from injury, the 67’s should be alright despite their struggles of late.
Bulldogs Coming to Town
The 67’s still have a good chance to come away with four critical points this weekend when the Hamilton Bulldogs pay a visit on Saturday afternoon. The last time these two teams met, the 67’s pulled off a victory in an impressive fashion. It’s not going to be an easy matchup, but it would be a massive two points should the 67’s be able to pull it off.