Brantford 5, Ottawa 1

High expectations don’t exactly have a history of doing the Ottawa 67’s any favours come playoffs. 

After a dominating regular season last year, the 67’s still fell to the Peterborough Petes in the second round. The Petes went on to win it all.

Now, Ottawa has a chance at redemption, though expectations might not be quite the same. They finished in sixth place in the Eastern Conference and are up against the Brantford Bulldogs, whom they played Sunday and fell to 5-1.

Top dog or underdog, for Ottawa’s Henry Mews, it makes no difference. 

“Last year we were the contenders and I think this year, going as underdogs, it kind of fires me up. It fires all the boys up and I think we’re ready to go here,” said Mews. “I know we didn’t win tonight but I think we’re just even more fired up right now. We hope to play these guys in the first round.”

Ask and you shall receive. A few hours after the game, Ottawa released their playoff schedule. The 67’s will travel to Brantford on March 29 to start their run against the Bulldogs.

The Bulldogs placed third in the conference so Ottawa won’t get to play a home game until April 2.

Ottawa has had some success on the road in Brantford. The last time Ottawa was on the Bulldogs’ home turf, they won via shootout. However, that was the only time Ottawa beat Brantford this season and it was back in January.

For Ottawa’s coach, Dave Cameron, one of his team’s biggest issues over this OHL season has been consistency.

“We were good at times and other times we weren’t good,” he said. “Most teams will tell you, that’s what they struggle with over the course of a long year.”

Cameron underlined execution as a key concern heading into the playoffs.

“Too many times we had unforced errors and that stalls our whole game, so that’s the big thing we’re looking to correct.”

There’s still more to keep a close look at for this team. Key players in Ottawa’s roster, including its starting goalie, Collin Mackenzie, were scratched in Ottawa’s last regular season game. Whether they’ll be ready for playoffs has yet to be confirmed. 

Despite the challenges, there are silver linings. Ottawa and Brantford seem like a pretty even match, as the 67’s finished the regular season only two wins behind them.

Ottawa also had fewer goals against and a more productive power play. It’s on the penalty kill and goals scored for where Ottawa falls short.

Ottawa’s team is full of players with playoff experience, including Samuel Mayer, who went the distance with the Petes last season.

“Once you win one, you want to win again and I want to bring that energy back to these guys,” he said. “It’s an incredible feeling and we’re positive in there. We believe in us.” 

Mayer added it takes a full team effort to make a deep playoff run. Whether they can do it will have to wait until Friday.