After a day off, OHL action returns tonight with one game on the schedule as the Ottawa 67′s visit the Belleville Bulls in a 7:05 p.m. matchup.
Belleville and Ottawa sit at opposite ends of the Eastern Conference; the Bulls sit atop the conference and at second in the OHL with a 35-14-3-3 record and 76 points. The 67′s are last in the conference with a 15-38-0-4 record and 38 points on the season.
One statistic that might be surprising is that the 67′s have scored more this season than the Bulls – 180 goals-for compared to 174. In fact, just two Eastern Conference teams have scored less than the Bulls (Mississauga, Brampton).
Despite having one of the lowest goals-for among Eastern teams, the Bulls sit atop the conference in large part due to an impressive defense and goaltending. Belleville has allowed the fewest goals-against in the OHL, with just 135. Five of those goals came on an empty net, which means that Malcolm Subban and Charlie Graham have combined to stop 1,684 of 1,811 shots faced this season.
Belleville looks to extend a six-game winning streak and has won nine of its last ten games. The team’s most recent victory came in a 3-0 win over Barrie on Family Day, a game in which Brendan Gaunce, Joseph Caramarossa and Tyler Graovac scored and Malcolm Subban stopped all 29 shots faced.
Ottawa, on the other end of the spectrum, is looking to break a four-game losing streak. The 67′s last win came over Windsor on February 9, an 8-5 victory that saw Sean Monahan notch a four-point night and a trio of players score three points each.
Following that win, the team lost to Belleville, Barrie, Peterborough and most recently, Brampton on February 18. Ryan Van Stralen, Joseph Blandisi and Sergey Kuptsov scored in the loss.
Former 67′s center Tyler Graovac leads the Bulls with 55 points this season, including 20 in 17 games with Belleville. Captain Brendance Gaunce has 45 points in 47 games, and center Garrett Hooey leads the team with 87 penalty minutes.
Graovac was acquired by Belleville via trade last month after spending three and a half seasons with the 67′s. In 198 games with Ottawa, he had 41 goals and 51 assists for 92 points in the regular season.
Center Sean Monahan leads the Ottawa squad with 65 points (24-41) in 47 games. Monahan leads the team in goals, points, and assists; 10 of his 24 goals this season have come on the powerplay. Right winger Joseph Blandisi had 94 penalty minutes this season, including 45 with Ottawa, and defenseman Sean Callaghan has 94 penalty minutes in 54 games.
Tonight’s game is the sixth meeting of the season between the teams. Belleville has won all five meetings so far this season, including two shutouts.
- Oct. 6: Belleville wins, 5-3, and outshoots Ottawa 46-30. Bulls goals from Gaunce, Zharkov, Petti, Hooey & Silas; Ottawa goals by Steven Janes, Sean Monahan and Brett Gustavsen. Subban with 27 saves, Jacob Blair with 41 saves for Ottawa.
- Nov. 11: Belleville wins 3-2 despite being outshot 35-26. Jordan Subban, Joseph Cramarossa and Garrett Hooey scored for the Bulls, with Ottawa goals coming from Steven Janes and Dante Salituro. Charlie Graham stopped 33 shots for Belleville, while Ottawa goaltending duties were split between Keegan Wilson (3 GA, 11 shots) and Jacob Blair (0 GA, 15 shots faced).
- Nov. 25: Belleville wins 3-0 and outshoots Ottawa 5-3. Bulls goals from Sergey Kuptsov, Stephen Silas and Carter Sandlak; Subban stops 23 shots for the shutout.
- Dec. 12: Belleville wins, 2-0 and outshoots Ottawa, 46-15. Bulls goals from Jake Worrad and Aaron Berisha. Charlie Graham earns the shutout.
- Feb. 10: Belleville wins, 6-4, and narrowly outshoots Ottawa, 37-36. Bulls goals from Aaron Berisha, Jordan Subban, Brendan Gaunce, Tyler Graovac and Danill Zharkov (2). 67′s goals from Ryan Van Stralen (3) and Michael Cajkovsky.
After tonight, the teams meet twice more this season. They’ll face off in Ottawa on February 24 before meeting for the final time in Belleville on March 6.