The Ottawa 67’s continued their road trip in Hamilton on Friday night, but this contest offered a bit of a different flair than there has been in previous matchups. This time, they played in front of a national audience with TSN broadcasting the game, and with the Bulldogs sitting atop of the Ontario Hockey League’s Eastern Conference, few people expected the game to be overly competitive.
The 67’s, however, had other plans for this game, and for the second time in as many meetings, they took the game past regulation and into overtime. Although they would ultimately fall short and lose 2-1 in the shootout (the undisputed worst way to end a hockey game), it was a close game where either team could have come away with a win.
More Points Against Tough Competition
Just a few weeks ago, the conversation was about how the 67’s had managed to pick up just one point in six games. They were playing good hockey, but the goals weren’t coming and it was costing them in the standings. Here we are just a few weeks later, the conversation has been completely turned around. In their past five games, they have picked up eight points against teams they shouldn’t be beating on paper. In this stretch, they have beaten the Kingston Frontenacs, Mississauga Steelheads, and the Oshawa Generals while playing a pair of games that went beyond regulation against the Bulldogs.
Their Friday night tilt in Hamilton was another game where they were underdogs and few people expected them to come away with a win. The 67’s would once again stick to the Dave Cameron style of hockey and play the Bulldogs in a close game featuring plenty of physical play and defensive-minded hockey. In the first period, the 67’s capitalized on a short-handed opportunity and Alex Johnston scored his seventh goal of the season.
There was no more goal-scoring for the 67’s in this game, and Hamilton would get a goal courtesy of Logan Morrison midway through the second period to tie the game, but Ottawa stuck to their game plan. The chances continued to go both ways and either team could have found the goal to win the game both in regulation and in overtime, but neither team looked overly keen to take a big risk.
The Bulldogs were shorthanded in this game with scratches including Nathan Staios who scored a hattrick the last time these two teams met, Ryan Winterton, and losing Mason McTavish in the first period. They are still strong, however, and it was still a massive effort from the 67’s to keep the ‘Dogs close for another night.
How long can they keep this up? That’s the question swirling around this team, but this is the first time all season long they have been completely healthy. If this stretch has proven anything, it’s that this is what they are capable of, and until they give everyone a reason to believe that they can’t compete with the best, they should be considered good enough to make some noise in the playoffs.
Max Donoso Strong Once More
With Will Cranley not in the lineup with a non-COVID-related illness, Max Donoso was once again thrust into the spotlight. It’s possible that he may have started this game regardless of the health of Cranley as has been Cameron’s go-to guy for the past handful of weeks, but that is for a good reason. Since arriving with the 67’s in late November after Collin MacKenzie went down with an injury, Donoso has stepped up and been rock solid for the team and forced general manager James Boyd to keep him around.
Donoso was tested time and time again on Friday night, and while the shot total was nothing compared to what he faced against these very same Bulldogs just a week ago, he stood tall and stopped all but one of the 33 shots he faced. There were a couple of game-saving stops mixed in and without him, there’s no telling how this game could have gone.
At the beginning of the season, Donoso was sent to the Central Canada Hockey League’s Hawkesbury Hawks and MacKenzie won the backup job in training camp, but there was always hope that Donoso could be the goaltender of the future for the barber poles. Since being called up, Donoso has a record of 8-5-1-3 with a save percentage of .911 and a goals-against-average of 2.60. He has shown that he can be a big part of the future, and if he continues to play as he has been this season, he could be a big part of a potential playoff series win.
Quick Turn Around Before the Home Stretch
The 67’s will pay a visit to the Barrie Colts to finish their road trip as they look to stay hot against good teams. It serves as not only the final game of their trip but also serves as the start of an intense sprint to the finish. There are only 15 games left in the regular season for the 67’s, and including their road game in Barrie this evening, only five of them will be played on the road. They are in a good spot to make the playoffs, but they must continue their push forward if they want to make it to sixth or even fifth place in the standings.