Whale of a blooper

DON BRENNAN, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:35 AM ET

First it rained, then it poured.

Then lightning struck the 67's.

Ottawa's 10-game undefeated streak came to a stunning halt yesterday when Brian Kilrea's team suffered a 7-3 loss to the Plymouth Whalers in front of an announced crowd of 9,457 at the Civic Centre.

Included in a sudden reversal of fortunes was what had to be the longest shot to beat a goalie in the Bank St. building's history.

With the 67's down 6-2 and on a late second-period power play, Plymouth's Vern Cooper sent a wrister from behind his own goal line that was headed slightly wide of the Ottawa net. About 175 feet later and with 'tender Adam Courchaine out to field it, the puck took an unexpected skip through him and in.

You've likely never seen anything like it, unless you remember Vesa Toskala flubbing a similar long bomb in a game last year. Even then, the Maple Leafs goalie was on his knees trying to block it, and that shot was on net.

"It was coming down the ice and I was like, 'It's bouncing, I should probably put a knee down,' " said Courchaine. "I was a shortstop in high school and the same thing used to happen all the time. Soon as the puck gets right to you, it bounces over your glove. That's always tough."

It was one of those days "you just have to laugh off," said the Boston Bruins prospect, who watched two Whalers goals go in off 67's rookie defenceman Derek Hartwick.

Courchaine entered the afternoon on a superb run, riding a personal seven-game undefeated streak (6-0-1), during which he had allowed only 11 goals. Kilrea let him play the final 2:13 of the period, but replaced him with Chris Perugini to start the third.

The starter's line read 40 minutes played, 29 shots faced, seven goals allowed.

"He wasn't square to the puck," Kilrea said of Courchaine's contribution to the franchise blooper reel. "It doesn't matter if it took a bounce, if he's square to the puck. But that's what happens when you're a little bit off."

Aside from a league-leading power play that accounted for all three of their goals (off six opportunities), the 67's were definitely a bit off.

After claiming 19 of a possible 20 points to move them 10 games above .500, they were looking for a clean sweep of a three-home-games-in-three-days weekend against a team that came to town with an 18-19-4 record.

But the Whalers appear to be a better team than their numbers would indicate. The night before, they outshot the Eastern Conference-leading Belleville Bulls 50-33 but lost 3-1. Against the 67's, they did not appear to be weary in the least.

"It was a tough game for a few guys on our team," said Kilrea. "For the streak we were on, we had been getting the bounces. (Yesterday), if it bounced off a shin pad or off a whatever, they were opportunistic and they capitalized.

"They were a working team and they outworked us, but if there was something to go wrong ... everything that went wrong could've."

The 67's next game is Friday, when they host the Saginaw Spirit at the Civic Centre.


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