Ottawa 6, North Bay 5

The Ottawa 67’s secured two points on Saturday after an 11-goal match against the North Bay Battalion in the annual Teddy Bear Toss game.

It was Ottawa’s netminder, Collin Mackenzie’s, first game back since Nov. 12. He had a 0.925 save percentage coming into the game, but that mark was tested.

Ottawa started the game with shots on the North Bay goal and the pressure would soon lead to their first power play of the game.

However, North Bay has killed more than 80 per cent of their penalties this season and this one would be no different.

In fact, North Bay turned the tables on the 67’s as Justin Ertel, the man coming out of the penalty box, capitalized on a delayed penalty that turned into a two on one by scoring the game’s first goal. The teddy bears were still on standby.

The early deficit didn’t kill Ottawa’s spirit though. Halfway into the first period, Ottawa had out shot their opponent 10 to two and would secure a second power play.

But once again, North Bay killed any chances Ottawa could come up with, despite a stronger effort by the 67’s.

“Physical” wouldn’t describe this game nearly enough. The boards at TD Place’s rink were a convenient drum set for either team, as they took turns slamming each other into them.

Pinelli (left) celebrates with his team after scoring Ottawa’s first goal of the game. [Photo courtesy Tim Austen]

Again, Ottawa got a power play. And as the saying goes, third time’s the charm.

Teddy bears and stuffed animals rained from the heavens onto the ice, all thanks to the team’s captain, Luca Pinelli.

Bags, bins and young boys and girls flooded the rink to clean up the furry flurry. 

It’s all for charity. The fuzzy friends go to Toy Mountain, while the proceeds Ottawa got from selling teddy bears go to Cheo.

The brief moment of kindness didn’t stop the physical play once the game resumed, however. 

With three minutes left in the period, Ottawa would now have their penalty killing tested. The Battalion spent the majority of a man advantage cycling the puck in Ottawa’s zone. A solid effort by Mackenzie in net kept them at bay.

The second period started strong for Ottawa with early goals by Brady Stonehouse and, then, Will Gerrior. 

North Bay, though, replied with two of their own. First Ethan Procyszyn and then Jacob Therrien tied things up at 3. 

It wouldn’t stay even for long thanks to a great cross-ice saucer pass to Kaleb Lawrence from Stonehouse into the back of the net — 4-3 67’s.

The lead had a short life span, thanks to a centring pass to the Battalion’s Brice Cooke.

The second period had escalated every aspect of the game. The third period kept pace.

Stonehouse made no friends in North Bay’s net, digging for a rebound and drawing a penalty.

And the Battalion’s mistakes didn’t stop there. Seconds in their penalty kill, they would go down another man.

That led to a second power play goal for Pinelli. His 21st goal of the season.

North Bay recovered after completing the penalty kill and Ihnat Pazii scored his first of the season to tie the game at 5-5.

But the scoring didn’t stop. Ottawa at this point had 39 shots on North Bay’s net. It would be their 40th that put them back in charge.

Stonehouse scored his second of the game giving the 67’s a 6-5 lead.

The Battalion pulled their goalie with a little less than two minutes left, cycling the puck in Ottawa’s zone.

The Battalion fired shot after shot, but Mackenzie denied them all, even after the 67’s drew a penalty with nine seconds left in the game. Not the easiest way to close out a win.

The 67’s also wore special jerseys for Sunday’s game. All players, including Charlie Hilton (centre) and Nic Whitehead, sported a bear’s tail. [Photo @ Devon Tredinnick]

The 67’s lead the series against their conference rivals 2-0, after a win in North Bay back in October. 

Ottawa’s head coach, Dave Cameron, described the hard-fought contest as a typical junior game.

“You never know what you’re going to get. It was two real good teams, and I would say it’s a little bit ironic. It’s two teams who are usually pretty good defensively and both teams have good goaltending. So, for it then to end up 6-5 is one of those rare things.”

He added that games like this one add emotion, and for him, it marks the time to give back.

“It’s a time for giving. It’s a time for sharing.” 

The 67’s are at TD Place Wednesday, against the Oshawa Generals.