67's hope to stick it to Colts

DON BRENNAN -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 8:27 AM ET

Mark Mancari is one of the very few Ottawa 67's players not switching his brand of stick entering the OHL playoffs.

That works for the 67's, as Mancari's CCM has been as hot as a branding iron in the sides of the Barrie Colts this season.

The big right winger scored six goals in four games against the Colts, the 67's opponents in a best-of-seven, opening-round series that begins Thursday in Barrie.

The 67's finished sixth in the Eastern Conference, but only two points behind the third-place Colts. They also took 3-of-4 games from Barrie.

'NEW BALL GAME'

"We've played well against them, but the playoffs are a whole new ball game," Mancari, who had a team-leading 36 goals during the campaign, said at yesterday's practice.

"They've got a lot of guys who can put the puck in the net. We're not taking them lightly."

Mancari scored the lone 67's goal as the Colts won the team's first meeting 3-1 on Oct. 2 in Barrie. He was held off the board in Ottawa's 4-1 victory at the Civic Centre on Oct. 22, but then had two goals and an assist in a 6-5 road win Dec. 18 and three goals and an assist when the 67's beat Barrie 6-3 in the capital March 4.

Offensively, the Colts are led by Rob Hisey, who was obtained in an early season trade with Erie. His 86 points ranked eighth in the OHL. By comparison, Chris Hulit's team-leading 71 points for Ottawa tied for 23rd in the league.

While Mancari and Barrie's Bryan Little finished tied for ninth in league goal scoring, the 67's had the third highest number of goals (behind London and Owen Sound) thanks to a balanced attack. They had seven 20-goal scorers in Mancari, Hulit, Brad Bonello, Julian Talbot, Jakub Petruzalek, Bryan Bickell and Lukas Kaspar, representing the franchise's most diversified offence since the 1998-99 Memorial Cup champions had eight.

"No matter who we put on the ice, from first line to fourth line, we can get production," said Mancari.

That's almost as important at playoff time as good goaltending. Danny Battochio was in net for all three of Ottawa's wins over Barrie, while backup Anthony Guadagnolo played in the lone loss.

Jeff Weber, who is no longer with the Colts, was in goal for Barrie's only win. Dan LaCosta, who was acquired in a trade with Owen Sound, carried most of the workload as the Colts went 5-1-2 in March.

But LaCosta had little luck vs. Ottawa this season. In the last two 67's-Colts games, he gave up 10 goals on 53 shots.

ROSTER CHANGES

"We played them early in the year and there have been changes in both lineups since," said 67's coach Brian Kilrea, whose team finished the regular schedule with a 6-1-1 flourish. "At this time of the year, you don't look back.

"We know they're a good team ... they played some league leaders hard to get home-ice advantage. They have three or four lines that come at you as good as anybody."

Defenceman Nick Van Herpt was the only 67 to miss yesterday's practice. His status is questionable after he suffered a back injury crashing into the boards after scoring a short-handed goal Sunday against Kingston.


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