Saturday, March 6, 2010

Barrie Colts 3 at Ottawa 67s 6 (OHL) - March 5, 2010


The Ontario Hockey League (OHL) is one of three junior circuits that provide opportunities for young players to hone their skills as they prepare for the NHL. The other two leagues are based in Quebec (QMJHL) and Western Canada and the Northwest US (WHL). The three leagues hold an annual championship known as the Memorial Cup, which is a great chance to see top prospects before they hit the big time. But we're still a couple of months away from that as each league is nearing playoff time.

With 17 teams scattered around the province and 3 in the US, the OHL is a great league for a road trip, if you can handle the winter weather. As for me, I'm just visiting home this time, so I couldn't pass up a chance to see the 67s take on the top team in the nation. But I hope to do a more comprehensive trip in the future.

The Arena

The Ottawa 67s play their games at the Urbandale Centre, which used to be called the Ottawa Civic Centre. Sigh. Always with the name changes. Although in this case, there was no signage that I noticed indicating the new moniker. Although only the 67s play here these days, the Ottawa Senators spent 3.5 seasons here before moving out to Kanata, and the Ottawa Rebel of the NLL also played here before folding in 2003.

Outside at dusk

The rink is located at Landsdowne Park on Bank Street, home of the Central Canadian Exhibition which runs in late summer. There is plenty of on-site parking for just $5 and it seemed like there was plenty of parking. Transit is also an option, but it's quite expensive and no special buses are run after the game, so I'd suggest just driving in.

The arena is unique in that one half of the seating bowl lies directly underneath the seats for an adjacent football stadium. That side of the rink therefore has a very low ceiling, so low that you can't see the scoreboard from the top seats, so a separate board is required as seen below.


The rest of the seating bowl is normal, and capacity is nearly 10,000, making it the largest venue in the league. Tickets are reasonably priced, starting at $15 for the upper level and topping out at $20 for lower level down the sides. One thing that I should mention is that there are no seats at ice-level. It's hard to tell in the shot above, but row A is actually a few feet off the ground, so be aware of that. There's a small path that circles the rink and is used for staff and photographers, but no seats right next to the glass.


There are even suites that were added back when the Senators joined the NHL. The picture below shows them - not a bad idea for a group who want to be above it all.


Food is typical although not cheap. A jumbo hot dog costs $4.75 and there are some burgers that are over $10. There's a 24-hour bagel place across the street and I'd recommend eating there before or after the game.

There are three retired numbers shown below, as well as a banner honouring long-time coach Brian Kilrea, who is still the general manager of the club.


Programs and lineups are on sale at each entrance, and there's a small team store located on the concourse. I think the 67s have one of the more interesting uniforms in sports with the barberpole design on the sleeves, as you can see in the shot below of Senators' draft pick Corey Cowick, so check out the available goods if you are looking for something a bit different.


The Teams

The number one team in junior hockey was in town. The Barrie Colts were an unbelievable 53-8-2 and certainly look like Memorial Cup contenders. Some of their notable players include Alex Pietrangelo (drafted 4th overall by St. Louis in 2008), Alexander Burmistrov (ranked as the #7 domestic skater by Central Scouting despite weighing in at only 162 lbs), and Kyle Clifford (the LA Kings' second round pick last year).

Ottawa was a respectable 34-23-7 for first overall in the East Division, which gives them the second-place berth in the Eastern Conference. They boasted defenseman Tyler Cuma (drafted 23rd overall by Minnesota in 2008), and Tyler Toffoli and Ryan Martindale who were ranked as the #22 and #24 best domestic skaters by Central Scouting.

The Game

With the playoffs less than two weeks away and both teams having clinched spots, I expected that we might see a statement game as there's a good chance they'll meet again in a few weeks. Ottawa had lost all three previous meetings to the Colts, so I'm sure they wanted to gain some confidence. As well, the game was broadcast on Sportsnet Ontario, so it gave both teams some additional motivation.


Sure enough, Ottawa started strong, scoring 3 times in the first period, including a great shot from Cowick that made it 2-0. After the 3rd goal, Peter Di Salvo was replaced by Mavric Parks, and the Colts responded with 2 goals in the second period to cut the deficit to one. But a questionable penalty against Barrie led to an Ottawa powerplay and Toffoli made a nifty backhand move to beat Parks just 13 seconds into the man advantage. Barrie replied quickly though, when league-leading goal scorer Bryan Cameron potted his 50th of the season and we entered the third period with the 67s up 4-3.

Burmistrov skates with Cowick

The Colts couldn't generate many chances in the final frame and when Cody Lindsay scored for Ottawa with just 5 minutes to go, the deal was done. Thomas Nesbitt added an empty netter after Pietrangelo gave the puck away, and Ottawa had upset the top-ranked team in the nation.

In the end, Barrie outshot Ottawa 38-30 but Petr Mrazek (ranked #26 domestically and pictured below) was strong, earning second star honours for his performance. Overall, this was an enjoyable contest, but I picked the wrong end to sit in. Eight of the nine goals were tallied at the opposite end of the ice. Well, at least I saw some great saves.


Thoughts

I need to spend more time studying the juniors. The last game I saw was in Seattle, when the Kelowna Rockets visited the Thunderbirds for a playoff tilt in 2008. I recently checked out the boxscore from that game (which I barely remember) and notice that current NHLers Tyler Myers (Sabres), Luke Schenn (Leafs), Jamie Benn (Stars) were on the Rockets. I love minor league baseball because I know some of the up-and-coming players, but I don't have the knowledge for hockey yet. I did study the players before tonight's game though, and was able to focus on Burmistrov and Cuma, although it was Martindale who might have been the most impressive. It'll be interesting to see where they are drafted.

There were a lot of families at the game, and I think this might be due to the Senators high ticket prices. The 67s offer an entertaining alternative at 10% of the cost without the hassle of driving all the way to Kanata. It's good to have two hockey choices in the same town; Vancouver, Edmonton, and Calgary now also have junior teams to go along with their NHL brethren.

Next Up

The Leafs are in town Saturday night and I'm still hoping to go, although the reasonably priced tickets are all gone. Check back tomorrow to see if I made it.

Best,

Sean

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