67's win chance to hound 'Dogs

AEDAN HELMER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:32 AM ET

Thomas Nesbitt's first career overtime winner warded off a pack of hungry Wolves and sealed the 67's first-round playoff rematch with the Niagara IceDogs.

Nesbitt's 33rd goal of the season gave the 67's a 3-2 win Sunday over a Sudbury team desperate to avoid a date with the mighty Barrie Colts, who it will now face in the first round.

For Ottawa, it's a chance for redemption. The IceDogs eliminated the 67's from last year's playoffs in a hard-fought series decided in overtime of Game 7.

"It's nice to get a second crack at Niagara," said Nesbitt, who admitted the 67's players were scanning the standings as four first-round scenarios were still in play.

Corey Cowick, the game's first star for his two-goal effort, said last year's playoff loss "still stings."

"We went into their barn last week (a 5-2 Ottawa victory) and we wanted to set the tone for the (playoff) series if we ended up playing them," said Cowick. "It's that added motivation that should help us get past the first round."

Coach Chris Byrne downplayed the revenge factor, saying the 67's will be looking for four wins, "whoever we play."

Byrne described the IceDogs, who split the four-game season series with Ottawa, as a tough team that excelled in the second half, especially on home ice in the confines of the undersized Gatorade Garden City Complex.

The Wolves battled hard and forced overtime in a desperate bid to overtake Niagara for seventh in the Eastern Conference and avoid Barrie.

Cowick said teams should be wary of taking the second-seeded 67's -- who finished 10 points behind third-place Mississauga (Ottawa is the No. 2 seed as East Division champs) and 36 points back of the OHL-leading Colts -- too lightly.

"A lot of (teams) wanted to get away from (Barrie and Mississauga) and I'm sure a lot of teams hoped for seventh, but hopefully they'll regret that," said Cowick.

POSTS HELP SAVE DAY

Sunday's game was a back-and-forth affair that could have been over in the first period if not for the solid goaltending of the 67's Chris Perugini, who also got help from his two best friends.

Perugini made nine saves in the period. His posts made four.

Sudbury's Eric O'Dell opened the scoring on the game's first shot, just 14 seconds in, after Tyler Cuma bobbled the puck at his line and O'Dell skated in alone and picked a corner on Perugini.

The 67's, lucky to be down by just one after the first, carried the play in the second.

Cody Lindsay was denied his 40th goal of the season, after officials ruled he batted his own rebound into the Sudbury net with his glove.

But Cowick tied the game shortly after, breaking down the wing and taking a crisp pass from Ryan Martindale, letting loose a wrist shot that beat Wolves goaltender Andrew Loverock high.

Then, with 1.1 seconds remaining in the second, Cowick sent an unusually subdued crowd of 8,433 into hysterics.

Martindale cut through the middle of the ice and fired a shot that handcuffed Loverock and came to rest in the blue paint. Sudbury defenceman Ben Chiarot took a diving swipe at the puck, but it bounced off a pair of falling bodies, including Cowick's, and trickled in.

The celebration was put on hold as Steve Reese tied it up with 1:59 left in regulation.

The Wolves carried the momentum into overtime, in which Perugini was forced to make a pair of game-saving stops on O'Dell and Marcus Foligno -- the brother of Sens forward Nick Foligno.

The bench visibly deflated, however, when Sudbury's playoff fate was sealed with Nesbitt's winner.


Videos

Photos