The Ottawa 67’s continued to fall on Thanksgiving Weekend, finding themselves last place in a seemingly parity-filled Eastern Conference. After a pair of losses on back-to-back days, a 5-3 loss to Belleville and a 6-4 loss to Sudbury, Ottawa’s (1-5-0-0) two points make them dead last in the conference and in the league.
It isn’t for lack of effort, and it isn’t as though the 67’s are getting blown out every night. After Saturday’s loss to Belleville, the 67’s were 1-4-0-0 but had an even 20 goals against and 20 goals for. Sunday’s loss was the third this season where the opposing team needed an empty netter to seal a game at Scotiabank Place, meaning that this team isn’t too far from notching a close win.
With that being said, the first game of the weekend wasn’t nearly as close as the final score may have indicated. Ottawa fell to 0-3 on the year in re-matches from last year’s playoffs as they dropped a 5-3 decision to the Bulls.
With Keegan Wilson continuing to sit, Jacob Blair was a bright spot for the 67’s. Despite his team being outshot 33-16 after two periods in Belleville, he held the Bulls to within one goal. It wasn’t until Brendan Gaunce, Daniil Zharkov and Niki Petti scored for the Bulls in a seven-minute span in the third period that the game was broken wide open. Sean Monahan also responded during that time, but the Bulls were too much for Ottawa’s defence and rookie goaltender.
Brett Gustavsen answered back with less than five minutes left to keep Ottawa in the game, but it was far too little as the Bulls were clearly the better team all night and weren’t going to blow a lead in that short a time.
Steven Silas and Garrett Hooey also tallied for the Bulls, while Steven Janes scored his first of the year for Ottawa. Blair finished the night with 41 saves. At the other end, Malcolm Subban made 27 to preserve his first career regular season win against the 67’s.
The 67’s again found themselves in an early hole on Sunday, a 2-0 deficit that they’re all too used to climbing out of. Matthew Campagna and Sam Schutt opened the scoring for Sudbury, and it wasn’t until a slew of Wolves penalties that the home side was able to get on the board and make the game interesting.
Cody Ceci’s second goal of the year couldn’t have possibly been more identical to his first; a 5-on-3, wrist-shot from the top of the circle to get Ottawa on the board after giving up an early deficit.
Sudbury’s Joshua Leivo took all the air out of the building in the second period, however, scoring his fifth and sixth goals of the year respectively in the first three minutes and thirteen seconds. It took eight minutes for Ottawa to respond and close the gap. Taylor Fielding and Tyler Graovac set one another up for a pair of goals to bring the 67’s within one again.
Janes added his second tally of the weekend seven minutes into the third, but Leivo took over again, dragging the puck through Ottawa’s entire defence and scoring a highlight-reel goal that would give Sudbury another lead, one they wouldn’t throw away. Michael Kantor added an empty netter to finish Ottawa off. Blair made 30 saves this time, as did his counterpart Joel Vienneau at the other end.
Although nothing has officially been announced, Jake Cardwell appeared to be injured on the empty-net goal in the Sudbury game. He’s been solid when called upon, but still finds himself a -10 on the year.
Ottawa plays in Niagara and Mississauga on Thursday and Friday respectively, before returning home to face Senators prospect Matt Puempel and the Kitchener Rangers, a game that 67’s GM Jeff Hunt wants to see sold out with a Sens young gun coming to town.