The newest members of the 67's made worthy contributions in their Civic Centre debuts last night.
Most obviously, Jamie VanderVeeken's second-period goal turned out to be the winner in a 3-2 victory over the Erie Otters in front of 8,615 fans. But overager Brad Staubitz was also solid as part of a restructured defence that made goalie Danny Battochio's life a little easier than the 37 shots on goal he faced would indicate.
"The team played awesome in front of me," said Battochio. "Our guys were always first on shots, picking up rebounds. We played a strong 60 minutes and we were physical ... pretty much more than we've been all year."
The win pulled the 67's into a second place tie with Belleville and to within eight points of the division leading Peterborough Petes, who they visit this evening. Ottawa then returns home to face the lowly St. Michael's Majors Sunday afternoon (2 p.m.).
"I was impressed," 67's coach Brian Kilrea said of VanderVeeken and Staubitz, both of whom were acquired from the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds earlier this week. "I thought we played better in our own end ... tougher in our own end ... and we limited the rebound chances.
"We also had some pretty good chances to put the game away. We could have made it a little easier on ourselves."
Brad Bonello opened the scoring near the end of Ottawa's second consecutive power play 5:15 into the first period, taking a pass from Mark Mancari off the right-wing boards and sliding a shot between the legs of Erie goalie Jeff Disher.
The goal was the first on Disher in his last 148 minutes and 51 seconds of action.
If anything from the opening period was to make a plays of the week clip, it was a bodycheck by winger Jeremy Akeson that knocked Otters blueliner Chris Greene head under heels into the 67's bench.
That hit, which came in the final minute of play before the intermission, may have charged the 67's start in the second. Elgin Reid scored his first of the season 57 seconds into the period and VanderVeeken redirected another fine Mancari pass high into the net at the 4:31 mark.
"I'm not used to playing in front of a big crowd ... I think it gave me a boost," said VanderVeeken, a 6-foot-2, 215-lb. winger. "I wanted to play a physical game ... use your size to your advantage to let people know who you are. I'm not much of a goal scorer, I just try to chip in when I can. Mancari made a great pass."
Erie's David Herring broke Battochio's shutout at 12:52 of a second period that also saw a pretty decent fight between Ottawa's Bryan Bickell and Otter defenceman Brian Lee.
The 67's kept the Otters in check for most of the third, but Erie narrowed the gap with Disher on the bench for an extra attacker and 48 seconds left on the clock. Standing behind the goal line and to the right of Battochio, he fired a shot that went off the goalie's leg and into the net.