OTTAWA, ON – Despite an early goal and some solid goaltending, the Ottawa 67’s could not fend off the Hamilton Bulldogs. They dropped decision to the visiting Bulldogs after three third-period goals sunk the barber poles, falling 3-1.
The loss takes Ottawa’s playoff seeding hopes out of their hands. They will await the outcome of the final two regular season games from the Sudbury Wolves to see if they will finish sixth or seventh in the OHL’s eastern conference standings.
Head coach and general manager Jeff Brown says he was hoping for an effort closer to the first two periods against Oshawa, where the 67’s outscored the Generals 5-0.
“It’s unfortunate because we’ve played so many good games over the last month,” he said. “For us to finish the last four periods the way we did wasn’t good.”
When asked if he had a preferred playoff opponent, he referenced the discrepancies in Ottawa’s record against the second-seed Mississauga Steelheads and third-seed Oshawa Generals.
“We’ve competed well against Oshawa, and Mississauga’s beat us pretty bad a couple times,” he said. The 67’s have split the season series against Mississauga 4-4-0, and won it against Oshawa 5-2-1.
The game was also notable for 67’s centre Sam Bitten. He went head-to-head with his brother and Bulldogs centre Will Bitten for the first time in his hockey career. Brown said the two coaching staffs met before the game to let the two centres take the game’s opening draw, which was won by Sam.
For the second straight game, the 67’s earned the first goal of the game. They wasted no time, with Austen Keating scoring on Ottawa’s first shot. He beat Kaden Fulcher glove side, making it 1-0.
However, the 67’s didn’t have much to cheer about after the first, allowing 22 shots in the final two frames to their total of nine. Leo Lazarev was able to keep his team in the lead for a good portion of the game, executing a number of difficult saves.
Hamilton finally broke the seal at 4:36 of the third, with Cole Candella scoring to tie the game.
Then, Michael Cramarossa jammed a puck in short side off a pass from Will Bitten to give the Bulldogs a late 2-1 lead at 15:07. Three minutes later, Matt Luff added some insurance with a long range shot from a tough angle, beating Lazarev on a deflection.
That’s all the scoring Hamilton needed to pull away with a win, spoiling the party for the 5,000+ that packed The Arena at TD Place on Fan Appreciation Day.