67's season nothing short of incredible

BARRE CAMPBELL -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 8:11 AM ET

The Incredibles. How else can the 2004-05 67's be described?

Incredible in the way they challenged for the Memorial Cup ... getting within a pair of victories of winning the whole thing.

And incredible that they got there in the first place.

Don't forget, this is a team whose only trait during the regular season was being consistently inconsistent.

Just when you'd think the 67's were on the verge of getting it together, they'd slump again.

Some nights, they didn't even look like they were interested in playing.

And while the list of poor performances started to pile up, so did internal strife.

Peter Tsimikalis, a talented offensive forward who was popular among teammates, demanded a trade and eventually got his wish, dealt to Oshawa for Chris Hulit.

RIPPED PLAYERS

After one disappointing loss to the Guelph Storm on home ice back in October, 67's coach Brian Kilrea publicly ripped into his team.

"When we get into our own end, it's just a comedy of errors," he chided.

"This defence that we're playing with right now may be one of the (most) discouraging group of six that I've ever had to coach."

Ouch.

There would be more of that the rest of the year.

Qualifying for the playoffs wasn't even a sure thing until the team went on a winning streak near the end of the season -- a five-game run at the beginning of March that began their run into the post-season.

And when they got into the playoffs, the 67's transformed their doubters into believers.

Goalie Danny Battochio was the main reason why.

While the 67's were up and down all year, he was a steadying force.

Battochio, who was sidelined twice with shoulder injuries, usually delivered performances that won the 67's games or kept them in games they had no right being in.

He and Anthony Guadagnolo shared the goaltending duties, and Kilrea praised them throughout the season, saying they were the team's only consistent players.

And when the playoffs began, Battochio ramped up his game.

Playing in his first OHL post-season contest during the opening round against the Barrie Colts, Battochio was the difference during a 5-4 win at the Barrie Molson Centre when the Colts held a 45-22 advantage in shots.

The bar had been set, and Battochio refused to lower his standard as the 67's took care of the Colts in six games.

The 67's then faced the Sudbury Wolves in the second round, giving Battochio a chance to compete against his home-town team.

He competed -- and then some.

On April 7 in Sudbury, with friends and family on hand, the 67's were outshot 50-29 but Battochio made 48 stops, many of them incredible.

Ottawa won that game 3-2 and proceeded to take the series in six contests, advancing to the Eastern Conference championship against the Peterborough Petes.

That's when it all came together for the 67's, who were considered heavy underdogs to win the series.

But Jeremy Akeson scored early in overtime in the opening game in Peterborough to give the 67's a third straight Game 1 victory on the road, en route to four-game sweep.

The 67's faced the London Knights in the OHL championship series, but already knew they'd get a berth in the Memorial Cup because the Knights were hosting the tournament.

Ottawa met its match in the final, but not before getting one of the team's most significant wins of the season.

It happened in the second game of the series at the John Labatt Centre when the 67's scored four times in the third period to win 6-3, becoming just the second team all season to beat the Knights in London.

STAUBITZ WINS IT

Then at the Memorial Cup, 67's fans will always remember the goal by defenceman Brad Staubitz in the team's first game of the tourney, giving Ottawa a 3-2 double-overtime win over the Kelowna Rockets in the longest game in Memorial Cup history.

It was the last win of the year for the 67's, but it gave the team a shot at winning the tournament.

There were other highlights during the year.

Ottawa set a single-game CHL attendance record on Dec. 30 when 20,081 fans piled into the Corel Centre to watch the 67's take on the Kingston Frontenacs.

And winger Mark Mancari helped the team during its winning streak near the end of the season, scoring three hat tricks in a four-game span, dedicating his performance to his grandmother who had died.

In the end, the 67's got to the Memorial Cup semi-final, where they lost 7-4 to the Rimouski Oceanic.

But it was a lot further than anybody thought this group of self-proclaimed "castoffs" would get.

A truly amazing season for The Incredibles.


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