Head coach and general manager Chris Byrne insisted he didn’t want it to come down to this.
“We’re not worried about what other teams do,” he said on the night of yet another loss, albeit the same night Niagara lost as well. “If we want to do things right, and play the game right, we’ll compete for the playoffs.”
Now, it looks as if scoreboard watching is their last hope.
Ottawa has three games remaining and the most difficult schedule of any of the last three teams battling for a playoff spot.
The only problem for those two other teams is that they play each other, twice.
Niagara and Mississauga go toe-to-toe with one another this Thursday and Friday, and the Barberpoles pray for no three-point games.
Should Niagara pull off a clean sweep of Mississauga, it all but guarantees a playoff spot for Ottawa, assuming Mississauga doesn’t pull out a win in their final game against Kingston.
Ottawa closes out the schedule against Kingston, who they’ve only mustered up one point against in six tries, a Barrie team that’s swept them this year with seven goals for in every meeting, and a North Bay team that Ottawa upset early in January.
If the 67’s pull off another upset win over North Bay or even pick up an overtime loss or two, it would go a long way towards securing a playoff spot.
Even if Ottawa squeaks in, they’re in for a rough ride with the top-seeded Oshawa Generals, and it doesn’t get any easier with injury and suspension trouble.
In their most recent game, a 4-2 loss to Kingston, Erik Bradford went into the boards awkwardly and fractured his femur.
Chris Byrne didn’t want to confirm or deny anything after the game, simply saying that Bradford was “at the hospital and we’ll hear more later,” but the team later did confirm he would miss the rest of the season.
Furthermore, perhaps Ottawa’s most improved player in the second half could be gone for a while.
Troy Henley was given a match penalty for his part in a linebrawl with Kingston, a penalty that will carry at least a two-game suspension.
During a dust-up with noted tough guy Mack Lemmon, Henley landed the final punch with Lemmon’s head near the ice, knocking him unconscious.
“It was really just a wrestling match,” said Henley. “He dropped the gloves before I dropped the gloves, so I was defending myself.”
“It’s pretty rattling to me. I’m not a fighter, it’s pretty tough to take in.”
Travis Konecny continues to pile up the goals and rookie of the month honours, but it’s going to be all-for-naught if he can’t get playoff experience as a rookie.
“I’d trade the goals for two points any day,” Konecny said after his goal in the loss to Kingston on his 17th birthday.”
Konecny finished the night without his two regular linemates, Bradford to injury and Ryan Van Stralen to a game misconduct.
“We’re feeling for Bradford, it’s tough what happened,” added Konecny. “It’s tough to see those guys get out of the game.”
At least now the 67’s won’t have the Generals matching lines against them should they squeak into a playoff series, although line matching is the least of their concerns in a potential 1-vs.-8 series.