Pictured in Kingston Frontenacs' forward Henri Ikonen who, along with his teammates, will be happy to see the end of January, when they play the Bulls in Belleville on Wednesday evening.
After a tough week of practice, including their normal day off (Monday), the Frontenacs were looking to end their 6 game losing streak against the Ottawa 67s, on home ice. Coach Gill hasn't been happy with the level of compete that the Fronts have displayed during their losing streak, nor has he been happy with guys trying to "go it alone" instead of playing within the system. Another nice crowd of just over 3,800 were on hand at K-Rock Centre for this one.
Instead of coming out fired up against a fragile team, who were beaten 11-1 the night before, Kingston were tentative in the first period. Tentative, offensively, that is. Three separate fights broke out in the game's first 8 minutes. The first fight of the night, between Sam Schutt, of the Frontenacs, and Connor Brown of the 67s seemed to motivate the visitors more, as just over a minute later, Sean Callaghan would blast one from the point, which deflected off of something in front, to beat Mike Morrison. Nevin Guy notched his 2nd of the season at 11:56 of the 1st to give the 67s a 2-0 lead after the first period.
Sam Bennett took his first of two, 4 minute, high sticking penalties of the weekend 25 seconds into the 2nd period. Both of these penalties would prove costly for Kingston. Just prior to the end of the first two minutes, Sean Monahan would skate, uncontested, into the slot and fire one right through Mike Morrison, who clearly wasn't on his game on this night. It was 3-0 less than 2 minutes into the 2nd. Billy Jenkins would score his 13th of the season, after taking a nice pass from captain, Cody Alcock. It was 3-1, and there was life in the building. Just 3 minutes later, John Urbanic would notch his first OHL goal in his 67th game. He now had a goal and an assist in 8 games with the 67s after being acquired from the Generals in a deadline deal, for an 8th round pick. Mike Morrison's night was done, after giving up 4 goals on 15 shots.
Colin Furlong came on and didn't allow a goal on 18 shots for the rest of regulation and overtime. This seemed to finally wake up the Frontenacs. A minute and a half after Urbanic's goal, Sam Schutt scored his 8th of the season, followed 15 seconds later by Luke Hietkamp's 5th.
Schutt was rewarded as he charged the net and deposited a Billy Jenkins' rebound into an open net. Hietkamp was set up beautifully in the slot by Slater Doggett. The score was 4-3 67s.
Kingston tied it up on perhaps their goal of the year, by a diving Henri Ikonen. Ikonen made a nice move to split the defense at the blueline and fired one past a stunned Jacob Blair. I don't think Blair thought that Ikonen could possibly get a shot off as he flew through the air. He did, and the game was tied at 4.
Despite outshooting Ottawa 14-5 in the 3rd period, Kingston could not solve Jacob Blair, who had a nice "bounce back game" for the 67s. It was Colin Furlong's turn to come up big in the overtime period, as he stopped Sean Monahan on a partial break. The shots after overtime were 41-34 for Kingston, but the two teams were headed for a shootout.
Henri Ikonen managed to beat Blair in the SO, but unfortunately for the Frontenacs, Brett Gustavsen, and Joseph Blandisi beat Furlong, to give Ottawa the victory.
Sunday afternoon, Kingston welcomed the mighty London Knights, who had beaten Ottawa 11-1 on Thursday night, but lost 3-1 to Belleville the night before. Recently acquired, Anthony Stolarz got the call for London in goal, and it was Mike Morrison for Kingston. In their only meeting of the season, on Dec 16, in London, it took overtime for the Knights to prevail 6-5, on a goal by Seth Griffith, so clearly they wouldn't be taking Kingston lightly.
London took two quick penalties in this one, giving Kingston a 48 second 5 on 3. Billy Jenkins would score with 7 seconds left on the first call to give the Fronts a 1-0 lead, much to the delight of the 3,763 fans assembled at K-Rock Centre. The 16th ranked powerplay had scored on the 5th ranked penalty killing team. Of note in the first, was a terrific open ice hit by Sam Bennett on Max Domi. This was somewhat ironic, as the compensatory pick that the Frontenacs were awarded when Max Domi refused to sign with Kingston, after being drafted the year before, turned out to be Sam Bennett. Mike Morrison came up big on a lengthy Knight's 5 on 3 powerplay. Anthony Stolarz kept the Knights in the 1st with excellent saves on Ryan Kujawinski, and Billy Jenkins on different shifts in the first. Kingston carried the 1-0 lead to the dressing room.
One of the keys to success for Kingston against this, and every other team, for that matter, is to stay out of the penalty box. Unfortunately, after the 12 minute mark of the first period, Kingston would take the next 5 penalties. A very tall order for the penalty killers, as London's PP is ranked 4th in the 20 team OHL. This meant that coach Todd Gill was forced to shorten his bench which may have proven to be costly down the stretch in this one.
Defenseman Dakota Mermis slapped one from the point, that clearly changed direction in front of Mike Morrison, and found the back of the net to tie the game at 2:09 on a Knight's powerplay. Instead of hanging their heads on the bench, which has happened too much of late when the Frontenacs face some adversity, Kingston rebounded to take back a one goal lead at 3:12. Ryan Hanes scored his first of his overage season, and just his 7th in his 285th OHL game, including playoffs for the 67s, Wolves, Rangers, and now the Frontenacs.
1:31 past the mid way point of the 2nd period, Seth Griffith would notch his 31st goal of the year after it seemed as though a Frontenac defenseman was tripped up behind the Fronts' goal to allow Alex Broadhurst to feed Griffith. The goal was allowed to stand, so the Knights had tied it up. The period ended with the two teams tied at 2.
The 3rd remained scoreless until Sam Bennett took a double minor for high sticking at the 13:46 mark. This was the second double minor of the weekend for Kingston's rookie. It proved to be costly once again. Kingston managed to kill off the first two minutes, but the strength of Josh Anderson, and the tenacity of Matt Rupert proved too much, down low, for the Fronts, and Rupert slipped to the side of net and roofed a backhand past Morrison, on the shortside, to give the visitors a 3-2 lead. Despite a late powerplay of their own, Kingston could not beat Stolarz, and lost for the eight consecutive time.
There were many positive that the coaches can take from this loss, but with the Petes surging behind them in the standings, and the Steelheads winning on Sunday, Kingston's playoff position is anything but established.
They will travel down the 401 to face the East Division leading Bulls on Wednesday night, then will play host to the Central Division, and Eastern Conference leading, Barrie Colts, next Friday night. Three division leaders in a row is a tall mountain to climb, for sure. It certainly doesn't get much easier for the young Fronts, as they will host Sarnia, who are two points behind the Whalers for 1st in the West Division, on Sunday afternoon.
First things first, and let the month of January expire on Wednesday night in Belleville. Good riddance!