The Ottawa 67’s fell two wins short of an Ontario Hockey League title last season.
With a handful of key returnees and the addition of a versatile veteran forward, the 67’s are looking to pick up two more wins in the playoffs this season and capture what eluded them last season.
Even with some recent struggles, four of Ottawa’s 11 regulation losses have come in its last 10 games, the team remains atop the OHL standings, holding an eight-point lead over the Kitchener Rangers.
The 67’s have proven to be one of the toughest teams to face in the OHL this season on both sides of the puck.
Ottawa’s 245 goals for through 55 games is second in the league behind the 258 the Saginaw Spirit have scored and the 67’s have the lowest goals against in the league at 153, 21 less than the London Knights.
What’s made the 2019-20 Ottawa 67’s successful?
“We want to help our players be pro players, so if they play for us, they need to have that mindset as well,” Ottawa coach Andre Tourigny said. “That includes the way you east, the way you sleep, the way you train, the way you work on your skills. We do a lot individually with our players and our players are really driven. That’s what makes the difference.
“Every program has a good coach and good players,” Tourigny added. “We have good players, first and foremost, but the second thing is our players are really driven to get better.”
Last summer, Ottawa forward Joseph Garreffa, then a member of the Kitchener Rangers, made the decision to skip his overage season and try to make the jump to pro hockey.
After a tryout with the Los Angeles Kings and their American Hockey League affiliate, the Ontario Reign, Garreffa was cut and a return to junior hockey was imminent.
With the Rangers already having three overage players in the mix, a deal was worked out with the 67’s that would send Garreffa to Ottawa for third-round picks in 2021, 2022, and 2024 in late-October.
The deal has certainly worked out for both the 67’s and for Garreffa, who has 31 goals and 78 points in 45 games with his new club.
“The big thing about Joe is he wanted to come back to junior and prove he could be a pro,” Tourigny said. “He did want to improve his game and change his game from a junior to a pro player. He had an open mind. He’s easy to work with and he’s working on his game to get better and to be a more complete player, a 200-foot player. He’s doing a good job for us. He’s playing with good players but he’s a good player and makes others better as well.”
With a veteran goaltending tandem in Cedrick Andree and Will Cranley, a blue line that features a trio of high-end veterans in Noel Hoefenmayer, Nikita Okhotyuk (New Jersey Devils) and Kevin Bahl (New Jersey Devils), and a forward group that is as dangerous as any team in the league, the 67’s look to be a tough test in the OHL playoffs yet again.
WEEKEND TO REMEMBER IN BAIE-COMEAU
Pittsburgh Penguins prospect Nathan Legare of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League’s Baie-Comeau Drakkar hasn’t been held off the scoresheet very often this season.
Over the weekend, the 19-year-old picked up nine points in a pair of games against the Val-d’Or Foreurs.
On Saturday, Legare scored three times and assisted on another goal as the Drakkar beat the Foreurs 7-3.
The third-year forward proceeded to score three more times and assist on two other goals in a 6-3 win on Sunday.
DOWN TO THE WIRE
If the Portland Winterhawks win the Western Hockey League’s U.S. Division, the Everett Silvertips plan to make it as tough as possible.
The Silvertips have won nine of their last 10 games, including six straight games, and now sit three points behind the Winterhawks for top spot.
18-year-old goaltender Dustin Wolf, a prospect of the Calgary Flames, has been outstanding this season and a key part of the recent success of the Silvertips.
Wolf has won 10 of his last 11 starts and surrendered more than two goals in just two of those games.