The Ottawa 67's were finally able to pick up their first win during their Scotiabank Place stay this weekend, albeit against an extremely tired Erie Otters team and coming on the heels of a tough loss in a re-match of last year's Conference Finals to Niagara.
After Friday's loss to the Ice Dogs, head coach Chris Byrne knew that despite blowing a lead and losing the game, his team was still giving reason for optomism. "We had a lot more positives than negatives tonight," Byrne said after the 4-2 loss. "If we continue on this path, the wins will come." Sure enough, one win did come, an 8-1 blowout of the Otters on Saturday.
Ottawa got out to a great start to their weekend's first game, opening up a 2-0 lead on Niagara on Friday night -- their first lead of the season. Dante Salituro scored his first career goal and Tyler Graovac scored the first of many on the weekend.
Before Graovac's goal, however, Keegan Wilson had to be pulled in favour of Jacob Blair after tweaking his groin. Blair was still impressive, given that he was coming in cold off the bench and it was his first experience in an OHL regular season game, but Niagara's attack was just too much for him and the 67's defence.
Ryan Strome got Niagara on the board and Shane Rover added a shorthanded goal before the end of the second period to totally deflate the 67's. Brett Ritchie scored on a broken play in Ottawa's end late in the third, and Strome finished off the night's scoring with an empty netter to give the visitors a 4-2 win and drop the 67's to 0-3-0.
Less than 24 hours later, the 67's, and Graovac in particular, weren't going to take losing so kindly. The Minnesota prospect scored three goals in the first nine minutes against the Otters on Saturday, opening up a quick 3-0 lead.
"It was a great start for sure," added Graovac. "I wanted to come into this game and bring some momentum for the boys and I thought I did that. I'm just sick of losing, we have a winning team here and we're very competitive."
After the first period outburst, the Barberpoles walked all over the Otters. Long stretches of the game were spent in Erie's zone, Oscar Dansk was left helpless on several plays and Ottawa sent 17 shots at Dansk before Erie was credited with a single shot on Ottawa's net in the period.
Otters forward Connor Brown had the lone goal for Erie in what turned into an 8-1 thumping, although he wasn't to be outdone by his namesake. Ottawa's Connor Brown also had a goal. Remy Giftopoulos (x2), Sean Monahan and Brett Gustavsen also tallied for the 67's on the afternoon.
Jacob Blair wasn't called upon much in his first OHL start, but was solid in making 21 saves. "I thought the guys played well in front of him, too," said Byrne about his netminder. "There were stretches where he didn't have too much action but when he was called upon I thought he made some pretty good stops."
Ottawa is now 0-2 in re-matches from last year's playoffs after losing to Niagara and Barrie already this year. They have the chance to break that streak when they head to Belleville to play their first road game of the year on Saturday night against the Bulls. They return home to play Sudbury on Saturday afternoon.