Home-ice return sweet for 67's

DON BRENNAN -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 8:44 AM ET

The rookie and the overager sat next to each other in the 67's dressing room, laughing at post-game interviews on TV and generally soaking in the special atmosphere that comes with a hard fought win.

When they were interrupted by a newspaper guy, the first year player wanted to get a word in edgewise about his next stall neighbour.

"I have never seen him play that well," Matt Lahey said enthusiastically. "Never."

"He hasn't watched me long enough," Brad Staubitz said with a laugh and a shrug.

Kibitzing aside, Staubitz was outstanding in last night's 3-1 victory over the Kitchener Rangers, a great game played before an announced crowd of 8,125 at the Civic Centre and a Rogers Sportsnet audience.

The 20-year old defenceman Brian Kilrea obtained at the trade deadline for his toughness and strong defensive play delivered both in Ottawa's second home win of the weekend.

He was a significant part of penalty killing units that shut down all four of Kitchener's chances, including a two minute, 5-on-3 opportunity in the second period. He engaged Rangers star Michael Richards in a 1-on-1 battle that was worth watching most of the night, but especially when it really heated up with the visitors digging down late in the third.

"And," said Kilrea, "he also found time to score the winning goal."

That he did, with a blast from the point at 14:08 of the second period that broke a 1-1 tie. Staubitz' goal, his sixth of the season, would be all the 67's needed, the way Danny Battochio was playing in goal. Brad Bonello sealed the victory with an empty-netter 32 seconds from the final buzzer.

"We're a team that plays well at home," said Staubitz, referring to the 20-7-2 Civic Centre record that has fueled rumours impostors have climbed on the 67's bus to go get the 10-19-4 road mark.

"Home-ice advantage is something we definitely need (in the playoffs) and are striving for."

The win kept Ottawa within one point of the also victorious Sudbury Wolves, a team they are currently battling for fifth in the conference. Both teams are trying to catch fourth, which guarantees a first- round home-ice edge.

Last night's performance comes after an equally strong showing against the Barrie Colts on Friday, and just a week after the 67's lost three straight on the road.

"It was physical, it was a hard-nosed game," said Kilrea. "If you want to use it as a yardstick, we were more determined today."

They had to be, as only two OHL teams -- London (five) and Owen Sound (14) -- had lost fewer games than Kitchener's 18 entering the night. The play of Battochio and Kitchener's Dan Turple ranged from solid to acrobatic, as they stopped 39 and 37 shots, respectively.

The second period featured both teams enjoying two-man advantage power plays, and the way they dealt with the situations was key.

On the ugly end of a 5-on-3 for two full minutes, the 67's limited the Rangers to just three shots on goal.

Two minutes later, it was Ottawa's turn to work its power play as first Mark Fraser went off for interference and then, 49 seconds later, Evan McGrath took a penalty for high-sticking Bonello.

With the two-man advantage, the 67's didn't produce much. But moments after the first penalty expired, Staubitz broke the tie with a hard, low shot that beat Turple cleanly on the stick side.

The teams traded goals in the opening period, with the Rangers Chris Bryson scoring his first of the season at 3:14 and Jakub Petruzalek responding with a hard wrist shot between Turple's legs.


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