Ottawa 67’s face offensive Steelheads in first round playoff matchup
The Ottawa 67’s won’t have to deal with Josh Ho-Sang and the Niagara Ice dogs when they open their OHL playoff series Friday, but they will have to contain the high scoring Mississauga Steelheads if they want to make it past the first round for the first time in five seasons.
And despite being considered major underdogs when stacked against the Steelheads, the 67s were all smiles during practice Thursday afternoon. They know that season stats get thrown out the window when the post season fires up.
“It starts today in practice,” says 67’s forward Travis Barron, just before stepping onto the ice for a practice at Carleton University Thursday. The three-year veteran knows he, and his young Ottawa 67’s crew have got their work cut out for them: The Steelheads finished the season as the highest scoring team in the Eastern Conference, their 8-2-0 in their last 10 starts, and the last time the two teams met, the Steelheads beat down the barber poles 6-1. And while they won’t have to deal with former Niagara Ice Dogs star Josh Ho-Sang, who showed the 67’s the door early in the last two seasons, they’ll have their hands full in star forward Own Tippett and centre Michael McLeod who led the Steelheads in points this year with 75 and 73 points respectively. Tippett found the back of the net 44 times in just 60 games – and the 67’s are aware of this.
“They’re really offensive, so we just have to shut them down,” adds Barron.
It’s either we physically shut them down so they don’t want to play against us, or we can try and outscore them, but that’s going to be hard, they are really talented up front. They can skate really fast, shoot the puck, make plays, so we are just going to have to do whatever it takes to limit their offence.”
67’s centre Sasha Chmelevski will be suiting up in his first-ever OHL playoff game Friday night in Mississauga, but the 17-year-old isn’t letting nerves seep into his game. The Michigan native has a lot of confidence going into Mississauga, especially since the 67’s won both of their meetings against the Steelheads in their home barn.
“Anytime we can go into another building and win, we definitely get a lot of confidence, and especially with us splitting the series, we have a lot of confidence just knowing that we know how to beat these guys,” says Chmelevski.
“They are a great team. They play like us, they’re fast and they have a lot of talent there, but so do we.”
67’s head coach Jeff Brown says the key to beating a monster offense team like the Steelheads will really come down to defense, and not relying on one or two superstars to provide offence. While he has some confidence knowing his squad has had recent success in Mississauga, he doesn’t put too much stock into what happens in the regular season, once the playoffs start.
“We aren’t just happy to be here, we want to make a run and I feel like we have the ability to do that,” said Brown.
“We have played well the last month or so, and there’s no reason why, a few bounces here and there, this is our series.
One thing that will help the 67’s chances is a rowdy crowd packing the seats at TD Place for games 3 and 4 on March 28 and March 30. He knows how crazy 67’s fans can get, and he’s hoping the wild ones show up to give his squad an emotional boost on home ice.
“It’s huge,” says Brown on the hometown crowd.
“It’s great for our guys to play in front of big crowds. We are excited hopefully at least get a split in Mississauga, and come home and take care of business at TD Place.”
The first-round series begins with Game 1 Friday night in Mississauga, followed by Game 2 Sunday before the series heads to Ottawa March 28 and 30. Click here for tickets.