67’s need to focus on winning one before attempting to repeat feat

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The Ottawa 67’s find themselves with the improbable task of bouncing back and winning a playoff series against the Oshawa Generals which they trail 3-0.

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But, hey, it’s not like they haven’t done it before.

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In the spring of 1988, the 67’s lost the first three games of their opening-round showdown with the Generals and were on the verge of getting swept in Oshawa, where they hadn’t won in four years.

Down 5-4 in Game 4 with 23 seconds to go, Dean Morton, a Generals defenceman who went on to become a NHL referee, was trying to clear the puck into the corner when he inadvertently shot it into his own net.

Frank DiMuzzio was credited with the goal, then Matt Smyth scored in overtime and the 67’s went on to become the first OHL team to win four straight from the brink of elimination.

Some 36 years later, the 67’s are in the same situation against the same rival following a 4-3 overtime loss at TD Place on Tuesday.

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After being tagged with the ‘L’s’ they deserved in the first two games on the road, the 67’s looked to be the better squad back home in Game 3.

The final shots on goal were 42-42 despite the fact Ottawa took seven consecutive penalties — between the 11th minute of the first period and the third minute of the third — while only getting three power-play opportunities themselves in the 77 minutes and seven seconds-long night.

In the overtime, Braeden Kressler came within an inch of winning it for Ottawa when his deflection went off the post and bounced straight out rather than in.

“We’ve got to let that go,” coach Dave Cameron said of the calls and bounces landing in Oshawa’s favour. “We’ve gotta find a way to win one game and let the ball roll from there.”

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Cameron had no “qualms” with his team’s discipline, saying his players were being competitive.

“I liked our game,” he said. “We did a lot of real, real good things and didn’t get rewarded. That’s playoff hockey. Two good teams are going at it.”

Kressler, who will soon enough be trying to cement a future with the Toronto Maple Leafs, is doing his best to prolong his junior career.

He scored twice on Tuesday and now has six in nine playoff games.

“We’re not done here,” said the 21-year old Kitchener product, who was signed to an entry level deal by the Leafs when he wasn’t drafted in 2021. “We’re going to keep grinding and we’re going to keep battling.”

Kressler “absolutely” believes the 67’s have the character to come back.

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“We haven’t had a moment of panic yet in the last two series, so we sure don’t have it now,” he said. “We’re going to stick together and we’re going to have the right mindset going into the next game.”

While seven straight penalties for one team in a playoff game is unheard of, the referees blew a third-period call that could have lessened the disparity and even changed the outcome.

The 67’s were applying third-period pressure when Generals goalie Jacob Oster swung his stick around to knock the puck away from Kressler as he stepped out from behind the net.

Oster’s stick didn’t touch the puck, however, but he did send Kressler for a spill. There was no whistle as the officials clearly thought he tripped over his own feet.

“It’s all good,” Kressler said before absolving the men in stripes of any blame after the 67’s off-ice workout on Wednesday. “You never know who’s in the right position or not and it gets tough for them to see different angles.

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“So you can’t really complain about that. It’s part of the game. We played really good 5-on-5, so you know, why not stay 5-on-5?”

Pushing hard to give the 67’s the scoring they’ve relied on him for was captain Luca Pinnelli, who had a team-high 48 goals during the regular season then scored four times in the first three games of the opening round against Brantford.

In the past six games, Pinnelli has just one goal.

“You get chances not every one is going to go in,” said Pinnelli, who led the 67’s with seven shots on goal Tuesday after recording just four in the first two games of the series. “So I’ve just got to keep on working and eventually, you know, they go in.”

The 67’s, as a whole, need the same attitude.

“I think you’ve just got to trust the process,” Pinnelli said. “I thought (Tuesday) we played a pretty good game, 5-on-5 we were the better team. I think we just got stick with it.

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“I think the room is really good, actually. Today the vibes are good. Everyone’s confident that we can we can make this comeback and we’re ready for the challenge.”

Echoing those sentiments was defenceman Henry Mews, who had an outstanding Game 3 with a goal, two assists and five shots.

“I thought we controlled most of (Tuesday’s) game … we had our chances in overtime as well,” said Mews, whose team outshot the Generals 7-3 in the 17:07 of sudden death. “It’s not over until it’s over. We’re looking forward to (Game 4) Thursday here. We know we were the better team here, and so we’ll take it one game at a time, one period at a time.

“We’ll get the momentum back next game and head over to our Oshawa on Friday and show them ’em what’s up.”


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