September 24, 2011
67's rock Bulls
By AEDAN HELMER, QMI Agency
OTTAWA - Malcolm Subban found out the hard way that playing opposing goal in Ottawa has suddenly become a dangerous occupation.
Promising a bigger, stronger, tougher team than the one that piled up 44 regular-season wins but fell short when it counted most in a first-round playoff sweep last season, the 67’s wasted little time in throwing their weight around in a 2-1 win against the Belleville Bulls in front of 7,286 fans in Friday’s season opener.
And while the 67’s wait for word on when, and if, Tyler Toffoli (Kings) and Ryan Martindale (Oilers) will return to the fold, coach Chris Byrne may be forced to face life without another veteran, Dalton Smith, who will likely hear from OHL Commissioner Dave Branch for a nasty elbow to the head of the Bulls netminder.
Moments after taking a 2-1 lead on a second-period power play, Smith crashed the net leading with his elbow, knocking Subban’s helmet flying and leaving the goalie dazed on the ice.
Subban stayed in the game, but was rocked again by a crease-crashing Marc Zanetti.
Smith, who was ejected, earned a suspension in the season opener last season after breaking Soo captain Brock Beukeboom’s nose, then taunting the bench on his way off the ice.
Byrne reserved comment on whether Smith would be suspended, saying he thought the big winger was pushed into the net from behind.
“If at all possible, you’ve got to let up and get out of the way,” said Byrne. “I don’t think there was any malice in it, but we’ll live with the (league) decision.”
Belleville coach and GM George Burnett shrugged his shoulder when asked if he thought the hit was dirty, saying only, “I’ll let the league take care of it.”
Already the team’s fastest skater, winger Shane Prince looks like he’s gained an extra step, and a boost of confidence, after spending training camp across town with the Senators.
Prince opened the scoring in the first, seconds after Subban robbed him on a clear-cut breakaway.
PRINCE REELS IT IN
Steven Janes kicked a loose puck to his stick and fed Prince, who returned the favour with a cross-crease pass that dribbled inches wide of the post. Prince managed to reel in the puck and flipped a backhander in off Subban’s back at 15:04.
The rough stuff ended up costing the 67’s early in the second when the Bulls capitalized on a charging penalty to Janes.
Carter Sandlak found himself all alone in the high slot, snapping a shot that deflected in off Austen Brassard’s stick as the big winger cruised through the crease at 3:16 of the second.
Ottawa got that one back with a power-play goal of its own four minutes later, with Cody Ceci ranging in off the point and snapping home a juicy rebound from a Sean Monahan backhander.
Ceci, already touted as a potential first-rounder in the 2012 NHL draft, was the best of the bunch on a revamped blue line that boasts an eight-man rotation averaging nearly 6-foot-2 and 200 lbs. of nasty.
“I’m feeling a little more confident offensively, but trying to stay responsible in my own end as well,” said Ceci. “I kind of give myself the green light (to join the rush) if I know I can get back with speed. It just comes with being in the league for three years and gaining that confidence.”
67’s goaltender Petr Mrazek made 25 saves in the win.
Ottawa welcomes division rival Kingston Frontenacs Sunday at 2 p.m.