The Ottawa 67's have now dropped seven consecutive contest and although it was a near certainty in past weeks, the team has now been mathematically eliminated from playoff contention.
Head coach and General manager Chris Byrne had maintained all the while during January and February that his squad was still had a lot to play for in the standings. Even now, he doesn't want to refer to his team as spoilers, instead putting pieces in place to build for next season.
“It starts with how hard we work and how we practice and compete and stick together,” he said. “Our young guys are learning and those are the kinds of things we look for as building blocks.”
The 67's were eliminated on Friday night after a 4-1 loss to the Oshawa Generals which saw Sean Monahan go hard into the boards and leave the game with injury.
At the point of Monahan's injury, it appeared as though he would be shut down until he was 100% healthy. After all, the 67's didn't have anything to lose by risking further injury to their star forward.
But after missing 10 games to suspension and time at Canada's Under-20 camp, as well as dropping in ISS' 2013 NHL draft rankings, Monahan wasn't ready to miss any games that he didn't have to.
His equipment didn't arrive at the rink until right before the pre-game warmup. He wasn't expected to play. But he decided to at the last minute, and added two goals against the Bulls.
The bench-boss couldn't have been more appreciative.
“Many fans don't know how sore he was going into today's game. Credit to him and how much he wanted to play.”
Belleville was short-manned themselves with only 15 skaters, although unlike most teams do with a shortened bench, the Bulls actually pulled away in the third period. Tyler Graovac added his third goal in as many games against his former team in that final period, helping drop the Barberpoles 6-3.
Graovac's second game against Ottawa came in a chippy outing on Wednesday night in Belleville. The two teams combined for 66 penalty minutes and 13 goals.
Jacob Blair got the start and made 17 stops, many of them on point-blank oppurtunities, before being pulled after allowing six goals.
Sergey Kuptsov scored in his second consecutive game, despite being pushed around by his former team. Jacob Middleton scored his first career goal for the Barberpoles.
In the two games, Belleville burned Ottawa with six powerplay goals.
"When you outshoot and out chance the top team on your side, the difference in the game was not being able to kill off a couple of penalties.”
As teams start to clinch playoff spots, the 67's watch their fellow bottom-dwellers in the race for the #1 overall pick. Ottawa is eight points back of Erie (Erie has played one more game) while Peterborough is 15 points up on Ottawa.
The 67's have three home games left on the schedule, with five left on the road, as they embark on a four-game road stand.