67's coach refuses to blame injuries for sweep

TREVOR BUNKE, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:39 PM ET

It’s been known for a long time that the Senators wouldn’t be playing any post-season hockey in April.

That the 67’s playoff run ended before the start of April is almost unthinkable.

A day after the second-seeded 67’s unlikely sweep at the hands of the No. 7-seeded Sudbury Wolves, Ottawa coach Chris Byrne refused to blame injuries for his team’s first-round demise in the OHL playoffs.

“(The Wolves) just wore us out at the end of games,” Byrne said Friday. “(Whether that was due to injuries) I’m not making excuses. It was what it was.”

Byrne did admit that the 67’s were hurt by the loss of overage blueliner Travis Gibbons, who broke his leg in the final game of the regular season against the Wolves.

“(Gibbons) was our best defencemen the last two years,” said Byrne. “He played key minutes for us. He was plus-30 something (in the regular season).

“He was a 20-year-old with lots of playoff experience.”

67’s forward Tyler Toffoli said after the Game 4 loss on Thursday at the Rona Centre that maybe Ottawa had been a little too cocky for its own good.

Byrne didn’t see it that way.

“I don’t think we took (the Wolves) lightly,” said Byrne. “They had a great second half. We weren’t looking by them.”

While the 67’s 44-win season might look like it was all for naught, Byrne sees it as a building block for the 2011-12 team, which will see most of team will return intact.

“It will depend on what happens with guys with NHL teams,” Byrne said, referring to whether he loses a player like Toffoli or Ryan Martindale to the pro ranks. “We had two 20-year-olds and four 19-year-olds on (this season’s team). (We will have) at least half of the team back next season.”

Byrne mused about the Wolves’ chances in the second round against the top-seeded Mississauga St. Mike’s Majors.

“(The Wolves) are playing well. I’m sure Mississauga is well aware of that. They have their scouts. It should be an interesting series.”

The 67’s will hold their team wrapup and clean out their lockers on Monday at the Rona Centre.

trevor.bunke@sunmedia.ca


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