One of the hottest teams in the country plays out of the capital. The Ottawa 67’s have won nine of their last 10 and wrap-up a perfect weekend with an OHL-leading 12 victories.
Veterans and youngsters alike have contributed to the Ottawa cause, fulfilling the expectations of many junior hockey enthusiasts who saw the 67’s as a contender this season right out of the gate. The Barber Poles are off to their best start in eight years, sporting a 12-3-1-0 record while outscoring opponents 56-45.
“It used to be us looking at other teams and seeing who we could beat,” veteran forward Sasha Chmelevski told the Ottawa Sun’s Don Campbell. “Now it’s the other teams thinking that way when they see us on their schedule, and there’s still room for a lot of improvement.”
The club has flourished under head coach Andre Tourigny, who was the long-time head coach and GM of the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies before stints as an assistant with the NHL’s Colorado Avalanche and Ottawa Senators.
The long-time CHL bench boss has turned to a big line consisting of overage winger Tye Felhaber (16-9–25), 19-year-old veteran Austen Keating (4-21–25) and 17-year-old rookie Marco Rossi (9-9–18) to carry the load offensively. The trio has formed one of the OHL’s most dominant units through the opening weeks of the 2018-19 season.
“It started in North Bay,” recalled Tourigny of the group’s assembly. “We were looking for the right chemistry. Felly, Keats and Marco were working really hard and in that game I though they were our best three players. We were trailing after two and we figured we’d try them together in the third period and see if that can bring something and they’ve been really good ever since.
“What I like about those three is that they’re really good defensively. The better they play defensively, the more they have the puck and the more they produce.”
San Jose Sharks prospect Chmelevski (4-6–10), draft eligible standout Graeme Clarke (6-4–10) and sophomore Jack Quinn (2-8–10) have provided a secondary scoring punch while goaltender Cedrick Andree has won nine straight decisions and posted a 1.72 goals-against average and .935 save percentage in the month of October.
Perhaps a key to Ottawa’s success this season has been starting with the puck. The team has won an OHL-high 56.4% of its draws this season thanks in large part to the efforts of Chmelevski (63.1%), Rossi (59.3%), Keating (60%) and New Jersey Devils prospect Mitchell Hoelscher (53.5%).
While the 67’s’ surge to the top of the East Division has been no walk in the park, featuring wins over highly regarded clubs in defending champion Hamilton, reigning Western Conference leaders Sault Ste. Marie along with Niagara and London, things won’t get any easier moving forward. The Barber Poles set out for a three-game West Division road trip with stops in Windsor, Flint and Saginaw this coming weekend.
“Now we’re getting the A-game of every team,” noted Tourigny of the club’s recent overtime wins. “Every team is coming to play against us, they’re ready and we get their best game. They track hard, they play really hard defensively and that’s good for us, it makes us better and puts us through adversity. Our objective is always the same, to get better every single day.”
The 67’s remain in the Kia CHL Top 10 for the fourth week this season after starting out as the 10th ranked team in the country.
The KIA CHL Top 10 Spotlight takes a closer look at one team from the weekly KIA CHL Top 10 Rankings.
Past KIA CHL Top 10 Spotlight editions:
Sept. 26, 2018 – Halifax Mooseheads
Oct. 4, 2018 – London Knights
Oct. 11, 2018 – Victoria Royals
Oct. 18, 2018 – Rouyn-Noranda Huskies
Oct. 25, 2018 – Prince Albert Raiders