OTTAWA - Despite coming out on the winning end Sunday, the 67’s are probably glad to see the last of the Plymouth Whalers this season after a rough-and-tumble game that was much closer than the 4-1 final score.
But if Whalers star and Ottawa Senators prospect Stefan Noesen has his way, this won’t be the last time the two teams square off.
“I’m hoping to see them in the finals, actually. I feel like they could win the East and I know we can win the West, so that would be a great final matchup,” said Noesen, who had the game-tying goal called back after referees lost sight of a live puck in the Ottawa crease with 3:34 to play.
“It was a bad bounce, it was unlucky, but we’ve got to fight through it,” said Noesen. “We had plenty of chances to score. It could have gone our way, it should have gone our way, but the ref wasn’t there to see it.”
Ottawa put the game out of reach with a pair of empty net goals in the final 1:17.
After a scoreless opening period with both teams trading chances, Noesen set up Rickard Rakell’s one-timer to open the scoring 43 seconds into the second.
Tyler Toffoli responded 42 seconds later with his fifth of the season, batting his own rebound out of the air and past Matt Mahalak to even it up.
Ben Dubois scored the winner for the 67’s shorthanded after Nicholas Foglia picked off a breakout pass from Austin Levi and found Dubois in the high slot for a laser that beat Mahalak high.
“I came on the ice and picked the pass and I just threw it to where I heard (Dubois calling for it) and it landed right on his stick,” said a grinning Foglia, whose empty net goal was his fourth point in the past two games.
Coach Chris Byrne singled out the efforts of his grind line of Dubois, Foglia and converted defenceman Taylor Fielding.
“They were just a solid grinding line who played against everybody’s top line. They scored that huge game-winner shorthanded and played solid hockey for six periods this weekend,” he said.
Things got nasty in the second period when Ottawa’s Sean Monahan was crushed into the corner boards from behind by Mitchell Heard, who went unpenalized on the play.
Monahan took matters into his own hands and dropped the gloves with Heard in a spirited tussle.
That led to more nastiness when Marc Zanetti crunched Noesen along the boards, touching off a melee with Tyler Graovac fighting Plymouth captain Beau Schmitz and Ryan Van Stralen ragdolling Rakell.
“(Monahan) is an all-around player and he plays hard,” said Byrne of his first line centre. “Obviously we don’t want him getting in 25 fights, but if he stands up for himself and his teammates a couple of times this season, we’ll cross our fingers and hope it doesn’t happen too often.
“They’re a similar team to ours, they don’t sit back, they’re always forechecking and trying to make the other team make mistakes and I think that makes for exciting hockey.”
Ottawa next hosts the Brampton Battalion on Friday