When the Ottawa 67’s play their now-annual School Day Game on Tuesday morning, they’ll be in a similar situation to that of the morning game last season in that they’ll be fighting for a temporary playoff spot in the Eastern Conference standings.
The difference this time around, is that despite being on a six-game losing streak, Ottawa isn’t the one trying to claw their way out of the basement.
In the 2012 edition of the day game, it was the closest Ottawa came to a playoff spot all season. A point behind the Kingston Frontenacs for eighth in the conference, Ottawa lost in a shootout, and never came within a point of a playoff spot for the remainder of the season.
Should the Barberpoles drop a regulation decision to the Belleville Bulls, Ottawa will be ninth in the East, a disappointing result should it happen, but one that goes on par with these sorts of games.
In the history of Ottawa hosting school day games, they’ve lost four times to Kingston and once to Peterborough. The 67’s have yet to win a game that they pack with school kids.
Kingston blowout, sixth straight setback
An 8-0 loss to the Kingston Frontenacs set back any momentum the 67’s had in putting hard-fought efforts together against a number of contenders, but perhaps it was what the team needed, a wake-up call to get back to the drawing board.
Holding a two-goal lead against a powerhouse in London before losing, and crawling back from a two-goal deficit to steal a point from a top squad in Oshawa were valiant efforts, but the game to close out this past weekend was the one that made it apparent how far Ottawa is from being a contender.
The 67’s fall to 0-3-0 against Kingston on the year, and while it’s only one team, it’s a team they face eight times, and chances are that even if they do squeak into the playoffs, they’ll have to face their longtime rivals once they get there.
Schedule eases up
The one saving grace for Ottawa is that the next three games pair them against three of the five bottom teams in the conference when they take on Belleville, Niagara and North Bay in a nine-day span.
By the time they take on the West Division leading Greyhounds, the 67’s are hoping to have built some ground in the East playoff race. They hold a game in hand on Niagara, Peterborough and North Bay, and taking as many of the next six points as they can will go a long way to dictating their future this season.
Chris Byrne appreciated his team’s effort against London before their two-game road swing, but made it clear that it still wasn’t a winning effort.
“We have to play that way, we have to be hard to play against, take care of the puck well, take smart shots. We’re not satisfied, we’re not happy losing. The message is that we have to play that game every night and for three periods.”
Ottawa allowed four goals in a third period collapse that night.
Defenceman Adrian Sloboda came back ahead of schedule from a high ankle sprain.
The team has sent recently acquired Ryan Duhaime to Kanata of the CCHL.
With trade winds blowing in the OHL, Ottawa is expected to stay quiet, but could pick up another netminder should the opportunity arise.
Jacob Blair has only seen action in two of Ottawa’s last 16 games and one has to wonder how long the 67’s will keep the hometown player on their active roster.
Ottawa sits with a 7-13-1-1 record, and for those counting, six points ahead of where they were at this point last season, even after the long losing streak.