Winning has become a way of life for the Ottawa 67’s this season.
A storied franchise that has seen success over the years has found itself among the OHL’s elite this season.
The early-season success stems from an ability to keep their emotions in check and not get too high with the early highs that have come with a 19-3-3-0 record.
“It’s just because we’re a really humble team,” Ottawa defenceman Kevin Bahl, a prospect of the Arizona Coyotes, said of the 67’s ability to maintain their success. “We don’t play like we have that kind of record.
“We’re fighting every game and that’s one of the biggest things is that as soon as you let (your record) get to your head, it can make the ship sink,” Bahl added. “It’s one of the biggest things is that we’re a really humble team.”
With the success coming at a high pace for the 67’s, Bahl said the process has become more important than the results.
“As a team, we strive to find things that will make us better,” Bahl said. “We don’t need to focus on the outcome. We focus on the process.”
What’s the biggest strength of this 67’s team?
“Our grittiness and willingness to compete,” Bahl said. “We’re really competitive. We love to win battles and bring it to other teams. We’ve got a lot of fight in this team.”
“We have a lot of talent, which is something other teams in the league have as well, but the way our guys work day in and day out is really phenomenal,” added 67’s coach Andrew Tourigny.
In his second season behind the bench with Ottawa, Tourigny sees a lot of positives with his group, including their ability to outnumber their opponents in the defensive zone.
“They work so hard,” Tourigny said. “Our backcheck is fabulous. We’re always in an odd-man situation defensively and our forecheck is relentless as well so we can create time and possession in the offensive zone.
Ottawa is in the midst of a stretch that has seen the team go unbeaten in regulation time in 19 games, and they maintain their play comes down to staying within the process.
“We just need to mentally not let anything get into our head and just focus on the process and let the outcome happen,” Bahl said. “It gets hard at times. You get into stretches on the road where you play three-in-three, but you have to focus on the process, focus on each shift and focus on winning the battle and getting that puck out. It’s the little things. The little things make a huge difference.”
COACHING CHANGE IN SAGINAW
Some surprising news out of Saginaw as the OHL’s Spirit announced a coaching change on Sunday.
The team has relieved Troy Smith of his duties as coach. He has been replaced by Chris Lazary, who served as Saginaw’s associate coach this season.
The Spirit currently sit in a tie for second with the Windsor Spitfires in the OHL’s West Division with an 11-9-1-1 record.
NOT MUCH ROOM FOR ERROR
In the QMJHL, the top four teams find themselves separated by just five points following weekend action.
The Rouyn-Noranda Huskies and Moncton Wildcats sit tied atop the standings with 38 points. The Huskies are 19-4-0-0 and have won seven straight games while Moncton, winners of four in a row, has a record 18-4-2-0.
The Baie-Comeau Drakkar hold down third with a record of 17-6-0-1 and 35 points while the Halifax Mooseheads are fourth with a record of 16-4-1-0 and have games in hand on the three teams ahead of them.
On pace for a career year, Huskies overage forward Peter Abbandonato currently leads the league in scoring with 12 goals and 45 points in 23 games and holds a three-point lead over highly touted 2020 NHL draft prospect Alexis Lafreniere of the Rimouski Oceanic.
PRINCE ALBERT ROLLING
While Ottawa continues to see success in Ontario, the WHL’s Prince Albert Raiders continue to be the hottest team in the country.
With 20 wins in 21 games, the Raiders have gone 13 contests without a loss.
The Raiders have been dangerous offensively this season, but what’s more impressive is Prince Albert’s defensive game. The team has surrendered just 35 goals in 21 games this season for an average of just 1.6 per game.