By Hafeez Janmohamed
Spring is in the air. The rain is falling. It must be time for 67’s playoff hockey.
Two seasons removed from being Memorial Cup champions, Ottawa’s major junior hockey team must prepare itself for another war in the trenches.
Unlike the previous two seasons, the 67’s don’t hold the first seed in the Eastern Conference, which would have given them home ice advantage throughout the playoffs.
As the fourth seed, the team will have home ice advantage only in the first round against fifth-placed North Bay Centennials.
The owner of the Ottawa 67’s, Jeff Hunt, says it’s better to have the advantage of playing at home in the playoffs.
However, because the 67’s do not have control over their schedule, they will get hurt at the gate.
“The first round is always a tough sell – it’s so ho-hum,” says Hunt.
“We depend heavily on group sales, when fans plan in advance. If we have a playoff game on a Tuesday night, it hurts us because it’s a school night and we lose our younger fans,” adds the team owner.
The team gets the most fans when they play on Fridays, he says.
67’s fans are cautiously optimistic about the team’s chances in the playoffs.
Harry Amos says the team is peaking at the right time and should do pretty well against their arch-rivals, North Bay, in the first round.
“Overall, I don’t think the 67’s will go as far as they have in previous seasons,” says a skeptical Amos.
“We won’t do well against the Western Conference teams if we make it past our conference.”
Kevin Myers says that if the last three weeks were any indication, the team should do well in the playoffs.
He adds that the 67’s lack of scoring shouldn’t hurt them if they play solid defensively.
Myers believes that the 67’s will go as far as their goaltender Seamus Kotyk will take them.
Brian Kilrea, head coach of the Ottawa 67’s, echoes the sentiment that the team is playing well, and he hopes that the trend continues into the playoffs.
The coach says that everybody is healthy, which is a big factor heading into the “second season.”
Even though the 67’s seeding has dropped three spots this year, Kilrea is satisfied with his team’s position in the rankings.
“At the beginning of the season, you just hope to make the playoffs.”
The coach hopes his players will play to the best of their ability.
“We want to play as well and for as long as we can.”