It came down to goaltending, as expected. More specifically, the 67's-Barrie Colts opening-round playoff series was decided by the play between sets of pipes during a 30-second span early in the second period of Game 6.
Francois Thuot and Danny Battochio. Two shots. Two tests. One muff. One ace. In caves the roof.
Wham bam, thank you, Fran.
Here's the scene:
Facing the prospects of another trip to Barrie and a Game 7 for which they would have been definite underdogs, the 67's were tied 1-1 with the Colts after a first period in which the home side seemed intent on having a parade down Bank St. -- at least, a multi-route parade from different points of the Civic Centre ice surface to the penalty box.
Just past the three-minute mark of the second, an errant pass between Barrie blueliners leaves the puck loose near the right-wing boards in the Colts zone. Mark Mancari is first to reach it, and without looking he fires a casual shot at the net.
Perhaps caught off-guard by the sudden turnover, Thuot manages to let the puck slip through him and into the net. 2-1, Ottawa.
Moments after the faceoff, the Colts storm back. Rob Hisey, the star of their show with Bryan Little missing his second straight game, makes a nifty move around the 67's defence. As he cuts across the net, he holds on to the puck, waiting for an opening. Finally he shoots, only to be stoned blind by a lunging Battochio.
One minute later, Jeremy Akeson converts a Chris Hulit pass as the Barrie defence collapsed. 3-1.
The rout is on.
Before the series, Thuot predicted he'd lead his team to the Memorial Cup.
Today, it's looking more like Battochio could do something like that for Ottawa.
BETWEEN PERIODS: Prior to the game, one scout called referee Mark Hicks "the worst in the league." Hicks was called a lot of other things throughout the night, but never could he be accused of being the head of the Simpson clan. You know, Homer? The 67's (get this) played two men short on five different occasions. Come to think of it, we always have respected that scout's opinion in the past ... How did Thuot's bubble burst? Wonder if it had anything to do with something 67's trainer Brian Patafie said near the end of the first period. Patafie noticed that Thuot's catching glove was dangling loose, and not strapped up like rules stipulate. He pointed this out to linesman Eric Dagenais, who made Thuot tighten his equipment. Did Patafie get into Thuot's kitchen? Six second-period goals against suggests something did ... That's 11 goals for Mancari in 10 games this season against the Colts. It's about time he graduates to horses ... Added incentive for the 67's was the immediate bus ride to Belleville -- for an overnight visit on the way to Barrie -- that would have come with a loss. Pretty sure they enjoyed the perfume worn by puck bunnies during victory celebrations more than they would have the exhaust fumes of the leather lung ... 67's D Nick Van Herpt made a strong impression early, breaking up a Colts 2-on-1 break at the 30-second mark of the first, then demolishing rookie Jordan Shine with a hit just inside the Ottawa blue line three minutes later ... Monumental back-to-back deaths leave the 67's playing catchup with their pre-game moment of silence tributes. Last night's went to Pope John Paul II. A similar display of respect for Frank Clair must be on deck.
CHANGING LINES: The two teams 67's least wanted to face in the playoffs were Mississauga and Brampton. Just like that, they don't have to worry about either ... Mancari celebrated his third goal by skating to the 67's bench, where he was embraced by almost every teammate in a big, 'ole group hug ... Third-string 67's G Matthew Spezza is nothing if not colourful. Now, along with his dyed black and red hair, he wears a nice pink shirt to the rink ... Following No. 1 Battochio and No. 2 Mancari in the three-star selections was Czech W Lukas Kaspar, who is playing much better after a slow start to the playoffs. He's also playing with some bang. It was Kaspar's hit, remember, that knocked Barrie star Little out of the playoffs in Game 4. Last night, he took a penalty when he finished a hard back- check by grabbing the Colt he was pursuing and taking him headfirst into the boards.