After a couple of weeks without seeing each other, the Ottawa 67’s and Kingston Frontenacs met once again on Friday night at the Leon’s Centre in Kingston. It was the seventh time the two have met, and with five more matchups coming up between the two, you can imagine that things are beginning to get heated. This game was ugly in the boxscore with the Fronts winning 7-2, but that doesn’t represent the game that was played accurately.
67’s Healthy As Ever
The single biggest piece of positive news that came out of this game for the 67’s was their health. Both Jack Beck and Tyler Boucher were back in the lineup, and although Adam Varga was still sidelined, it allowed head coach Dave Cameron a little more flexibility in the lineup. One of the most notable changes was Thomas Sirman being free to return to his normal position on defence after being used as a forward since returning from the Christmas break. He played admirably as a forward even scoring a highlight-reel goal in North Bay at the end of December, but he’s a defenceman and it’s better to have him there.
For months on end, the 67’s have been battling the injury bug along with an unusually high number of suspensions, mostly due to a rule that will be touched on later. Cameron has often described having a fully healthy lineup as a dream that never seems to come true, but finally, it’s starting to happen for him. This is by far the healthiest the team has been since the start of the season, and it should be getting even better for them when Varga does come back in the coming weeks.
Not a 7-2 Game
A quick check of the box score would lead you to believe that the Frontenacs dominated this game, but that wasn’t exactly the case. There was a point in this game in the third period where the score was 4-2 in favour of Kingston, and if not for a couple of bad goals against Max Donoso, the game could have very likely been tied. There were long stretches where the 67’s controlled the pace of the game and held the puck in the offensive zone, creating numerous chances, however, a team like the Fronts need every few chances to score their own goals.
When the Frontenacs had a chance to score, they made good on it. Twice the 67’s had great shifts and looked dangerous to score and get back into the game only for the Fronts to come down the ice and score once more. Such is the difference between a team that is rebuilding and one that is competing for a Memorial Cup, and this is something that the 67’s were able to do to teams for two consecutive seasons while they were the OHL’s best team.
The 67’s checked hard, they closed in on loose pucks quickly, and they threw everything they had at the Frontenacs on Friday night. They weren’t blown out, but the Fronts are a veteran team who has been building for this season for quite some time while the 67’s are just starting to build for the future. Cameron shouldn’t be too concerned about what he saw from his team in this game.
What Even Is a Slew Foot?
All season long, the OHL has made habit of suspending and penalizing players for slew-footing, something that before this season, was rarely ever called. By nature, this play is exceptionally dangerous and can result in serious injury, however, there have been many instances of players being suspended for slew-footing this season, and many of them haven’t met the criteria. The rule is as follows;
“Slew-footing is the act of a player using his leg or foot to knock or kick an opponent’s feet from under him, or pushes an opponent’s upper body backward with an arm or elbow, and at the same time with a forward motion of his leg, knocks or kicks the opponent’s feet from under him, or uses his leg as leverage and pushes the opponent’s upper body backward causing his opponent to trip or fall.”OHL Rule 52.1
The most recent victim of this epidemic is 67’s defenceman, Matthew Mayich. Late in the third period, Matich laid a hit on Frontenacs’ forward, Paul Hughes. He was assessed a match penalty for a slew foot, mainly based on the fact that his foot tangled with Hughes’ foot when the hit was made.
It’s calls like this that have fans, players, coaches, general managers, and everyone else around the league questioning what exactly a slew foot is anymore. It was very rare to see this called before this season, and it’s as if the league has found a problem where there isn’t one. Player safety should be the top priority, of course, but to continuously call slew-footing where the criteria for the rule is not met is hurting no one but the players it is being called against.
When a slew foot happens that meets the criteria for the rule, it should absolutely be penalized with a match penalty, however, those have been few and far between this season. Every team has been the victim of this already this season, and the standard needs to be reevaluated by the league.
The Battle Continues
This is only the start of a tough stretch for the 67’s, but getting some points out of this run is critical. They will return home this weekend on Sunday against the North Bay Battalion before returning to Kingston on Family Day Monday early next week. They need to continue playing well, but they also need to find a way to score some goals, and perhaps most importantly, keep them out of their own net.
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