By Frankie Benvenuti | OSJ Staff
The Ottawa 67’s are once again among the best teams in Canada and are playing some spectacular hockey right now. Despite losing players like Sasha Chmelevski, Tye Felhaber, and Mikey DiPietro, the 67’s have more than made up for the departures. Just about everything the 67’s have done this season has been perfect. They have been winning games, making good trades, and working harder than any other team in the OHL. Ottawa is currently sitting with a record of 20-6 and have 1 game in hand over the Peterborough Petes (19-6-1-1) who sit first in the east.
As a team this season, the 67’s have been solid all around. The 67’s have the number four ranked power play in the OHL at 27.2% and have the leagues 6th ranked penalty kill at a modest 79.8%. Perhaps where the 67’s have been the most impressive this season is on the offensive side of the red-line. Ottawa has scored 115 goals this season (second-most in the OHL). They say the best offence is a good defence, and I guess that is true for the 67’s so far. To go alongside one of the league's best offences, the 67’s have allowed only 75 goals (second least in the OHL). At +40 through 26 games, the 67’s are giving themselves a chance to win every single game they play this season.
The players who were expected to perform this season have been spectacular and they have been the key to the 67’s success. Players like Marco Rossi (16 goals, 33 assists), Noel Hoefenmayer (10 goals, 25 assists), and Cedrick Andree (2.62 GAA, 0.911 SV%) have all been fantastic, but it has been the other members of this 67’s team that have stepped up that have made the team as good as it is right now. The three overagers the 67’s have on the roster (Joseph Garreffa, Austen Keating, and Noel Hoefenmayer) are all incredibly talented hockey players who have been instrumental in the 20 wins for the 67’s so far. The contributions these three make go beyond the ice. All three players are fantastic leaders for this 67’s team and always manage to come up with a big play when the team needs it the most.
Speaking of Joe Garreffa, I must tip my cap to GM James Boyd. The Ottawa 67’s were in desperate need of goal scoring in October. One week after Graeme Clarke injured himself celebrating a goal, Boyd pulled the trigger on a deal that would send three 3rd round picks to the Kitchener Rangers in exchange for over ager Joe Garreffa. Since the acquisition, Garreffa has 14 goals and 17 assists in just 16 games. The trades wouldn’t end there, and since that trade, the 67’s have sent Hudson Wilson to the Petes and acquired Adam Varga from the Steelheads for extra depth.
As good as the top players are for this 67’s team, you need to have players take the next step and become reliable OHL calibre players to have success. Last season it was Cedrick Andree, Tye Felhaber, and Mitch Hoelscher. With the talent leaving after the deep playoff run last season, the 67’s needed more. More would be exactly what they have gotten. People who don’t follow the 67’s closely may have never heard names like Jack Quinn, Quinn Yule, Teddy Sawyer, Anthony Costantini, Alec Belanger, and Will Cranley. None of these players are superstars yet, but the 67’s need them to be contributors to have success, and they have been pulling their weight and then some thus far.
As far as things go for the rest of the season, the 67’s have been in a tight battle with both the Peterborough Petes and the Oshawa Generals. There is a golden opportunity for the 67’s to repeat as the regular season champions should they be able to win the battle with the Petes and Generals. They have the roster to do it, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see GM James Boyd make another move before the deadline. Players like Arthur Kaliyev, Jan Jenik, and Serron Noel may be on the trade block, and would significantly add to a roster already primed to make a deep playoff run.
One of the best things about this 67’s team is the #NoQuit. For this group of kids, it seems that #NoQuit isn’t just a hashtag but more of a motto to live by. You can see this attitude during the game many times. From puck battle to the powerplay and the penalty kill, and even for the goaltenders never giving up on a play. The #NoQuit attitude has changed the culture of the Ottawa 67’s and the credit needs to be given to head coach Andre Tourigny. Tourigny has changed the 67’s from one of the worst teams in the OHL a couple of years ago into what they are now. Of course, having some fantastic players around has been very helpful, but the head coach is critical to the success of any hockey team, and it would be foolish to not give him any credit for this. As a result of his fantastic job coaching the 67’s, he has been named the assistant coach of Team Canada at the 2020 world juniors in the Czech Republic.
It takes many things to go right to have a successful hockey team, especially in junior hockey, and just about everything has gone right for the 67’s this season. Right now is an exciting time to be a fan and I fully expect the bandwagon to grow in size as the season continues down the stretch. Beat the rush! Hop on the bandwagon now and support a local team and a fantastic group playing their hearts out right now.