Clearing the Puck! A look at the week that was in Hockey!

Welcome to the first edition of Puck77’s newest feature, Clearing the Puck! Here we will take a weekly look at the world of hockey! Everything from the NHL to the World Championships!

Since this is the first iteration of “Clearing the Puck”, a brief explanation seems appropriate. What we’re going to be doing at Puck77 is putting out a weekly recap. There are going to be observations, summaries and some cool things that we noticed around the web from the NHL and the world of hockey from the last week. There will be 10 points every Saturday morning. Included will be links to articles from our website as well as many others to help fill you in on some of the best hockey and NHL content from around the web.

So why are we calling the weekly review “Clearing the Puck”? Well it’s fairly simple. We want to clear the news from the week. We want to give you a recap of all the important news and notes from the week. Much like clearing the puck during a hockey game gives you a chance for a fresh start, we want this weekly feature to give you a fresh look at the weeks biggest and best news and content from everything hockey. As evidenced by point number seven today, not everything is going to be serious, hard hitting news. We will take a look at the lighter side of the game as well!

Without further ado, welcome to the inaugural edition of Clearing the Puck!

San Jose takes game 7, again not without controversy!

Again. In the first round, a San Jose Sharks comeback in game seven of the first round against the Vegas Golden Knights. That comeback was propelled by a controversial game misconduct cross-checking penalty on Cody Eakin. After watching the replay, it was evident that the officials made a call on the result of the bad fall Joe Pavelski took, rather than the infraction itself.

This time it was an offside challenge on a goal that seem to have tied the game at two and would have swung all momentum in the Colorado Avalanche‘s favour. While many complained about the call because it was overturned even though it was impossible to see on the early 2000s webcams they use in the boards along the blue lines. Gabriel Landeskog going off for a line change may have had his skate blade an inch offside, it wasn’t called during play and it didn’t affect the play in the least. He was actively getting off of the ice.

Tweet and video courtesy of @AltitudeTV

As seen in the video above, it’s almost irresponsible to overturn a call when the camera is a pathetic excuse for technology and the call on the ice was a goal. However, could this be karma? The reason we have the highly divisive offside reviews in the first place is because Matt Duchene was a mile offside and scored on the break-away. Not all goals are equal and the hockey gods picked an unfavourable time to pay the Avalanche back for the drama the offside reviews have caused.

Tweet courtesy of @Ken_stapon

The Jerks meet the Jerks!

The “Bunch of Jerks” have been waiting for a while as they swept the New York Islanders. The “Big Bad Jerks” won a hard fought battle against the Columbus Blue Jackets. That gives us an “All-Jerks” Eastern Conference final of the Carolina Hurricanes against the Boston Bruins.

Game one went down on Thursday night with the Bruins earning a 5-2 victory in a game largely dominated by the Hurricanes and won by the Boston power play. This should be a great series as the contrasting styles will likely make for entertaining hockey. Will we have the fast, up-and-down game with depth scoring that Carolina loves or will we end up with the slow, cycle game dominated by the Bruins top-line and power play?

Puck 77’s Christopher Highe issues a storm warning on the Hurricanes here and James Kelly explains why the Bruins can wether the storm here.

Started from the bottom now we’re here!

The St. Louis Blues have made it to the conference finals! This is the same team that was tied with the lowly Ottawa Senators for dead last in the NHL on January 1st. They collected more points since the new year than any team in the NHL, including the Tampa Bay Lightning.

While there are many things that changed in the new year, a coaching change and a change in net were the drivers in the Blues ascension to Stanley Cup contenders. A statistical look at the rise of the Blues was done by Puck 77’s Tony Ferrari. You can take a look at how both basic and analytical statistics helped change the course of the Blues season here.

NHL Draft Rankings Season is in Full Swing!

With about six weeks until the 2019 NHL Entry Draft, many sites and prospect writers have released their personal ranking of the prospects. You can catch the Puck77 rankings here. Many of them are not mock drafts, they are rankings. Teams may draft based on positional need or personal preference in their own rankings. Listed below are some of the rankings from some of the most well known and some of the underrated prospect writers on the web!

Dobber Prospects Cam Robinson

The Athletics Scott Wheeler

Rogers Sportsnet’s Sam Cosentino

The Hockey Writers Ryan Pike

TSN’s Craig Button

For some under the radar rankings, check out the rankings of any of these prospect writers and amateur scouts.

Sam Stern, Tony Ferrari, Ben Brown, Alex (@Kotkanemo) and Wally Mazurek

Kappo Kakko is Good

The IIHF World Championships began on Friday. Kappo Kakko, the second ranked prospect by most, is one of the best players in the Finnish roster and he put in what’s sure to be one of the best goals of the tournament in his first game. He displayed his size, skill and speed on the play. The only problem was that it was against a scrub of an opponent. Canada.

Tweet courtesy of @StevenEllisTHN

Kakko would add a second goal later in the game as Finland prevailed 3-1 over Canada. A disappointing performance for the Canadians was overshadowed by a dominant performance of a player not yet drafted. It’s safe to say the New York Rangers are getting steal at the second overall pick!

Jack Hughes is Good

While he didn’t register a point, Jack Hughes has proven that he is able to play against men. His size wasn’t an issue in this game or the pre-tournament games. Today he was even able to show off some of the skill that has driven him to the top of many rankings.

Tweet Courtesy of @HayyyShayyy

Even though the puck didn’t get to the back of the net, the flash of brilliance from Jack Hughes was surely a sign of things to come in this tournament and his NHL future.

Tweet Courtesy of @DevilsInsiders

Vladimir Putin is still “Good”

Is Putin a hockey god? Yes. Can he be stopped? Definitely not.

Tweet Courtesy of @TheScore

I will never get tired of watching Putin’s magic mitts. Forget Pavel Datsyuk, the real “Magic Man” is Vladimir Putin. His greatest trick is making defencemen run away when he’s got the puck and goalies move out of the way of the puck for fear of being hurt because he shoots so hard. Hockey Hall of Fame 2020?

Upset Central at the IIHF Worlds

For those in North America, the Canadian and American hockey teams are always expected to compete. Regardless of the tournament, regardless of the importance level, the Canadian and American fans are expected to win every tournament. Both teams lost in disappointing fashion today.

Canada looked flat almost from start to finish, they were outshot 27-21 and they didn’t look particularly dangerous. This could be a factor of not preparing for the tournament as most of these players were on a playoff roster within the last few weeks. The Finnish roster is made up of largely players from European leagues and features no current NHLers.

The USA suffered a disappointing loss to Slovakia, 4-1. While Jack Hughes seemed to play well against men, no one on the USA roster looked dangerous for prolonged periods of time. Putting three consecutive offensive zone shifts together virtually never happened for the Americans and they suffered the loss because of it. Both the Americans and Canadians need to turn it around or they will likely be having a short, disappointing tournament.

Surprise Liiga Champs!

Tweet Courtesy of @JokkeNevakainen

After a dream playoff run in the Liiga (Finnish top-level Hockey), HPK benefitted from a dream run of their own as well as some mediocre play by the heavily favoured Kärpät. Not expected by many to advance to the finals, let alone win it, HPK showed that every once in a while, the David beats Goliath.

Tweet Courtesy of @JokkeNevakainen

The Ottawa 67s falter without DiPietro

The Ottawa 67s of the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) looked to be unstoppable in these playoffs. They had swept every opponent they’ve met in the playoffs and looked absolutely dominant. That was until star goalie, and Vancouver Canucks prospect, Michael DiPietro went down with an injury. Since then, the 67s have lost 3 straight. They will have to fight for their lives as they face elimination tomorrow (Sunday, May 12th) and will look to force a game seven without their star netminder.

Tweet courtesy of @SportingNewsCa

Thankful it wasn’t an Achilles injury as many had feared after watching the video, the Canucks prospect reportedly has a high ankle sprain. The likelihood of him returning this season is low, but not impossible if the 67s can force their way into the Memorial Cup tournament.

BONUS POINT: Thank you from Puck77!

Today’s final point is a bonus 11th point. It’s simply to say thank you from the entire team at Puck77! We’ve grown so much over our first season! We originally started our small hockey blog with just our founder, Josh Tessler, pumping out content for you to enjoy. We’ve now grown to cover the entire NHL and we also have you covered everywhere from the CHL to Liiga, from NHL draft rankings to Prospect deep dives.

The team at Puck77 is grateful for every single person who has visited the site and read our work. We have a good group here and we look forward to having you along for the ride through the rest of the playoffs, the draft and free agency. We will be around all summer looking at the moves made by every team, the hockey tournaments in the summer and everything else in the world of hockey.

You guys are the reason we do what we do! You’re feedback means the world to us and we appreciate it all. Negative, positive, neutral, we appreciate it all! So from the bottom of our hearts here at Puck77, THANK YOU!

Statistics and information provided by the NHL, Hockey Reference and Elite Prospects

Feature image courtesy of Nikos Michals

OHL Playoffs: J. Ross Robertson Cup Finals Preview

This is it…

12 wins down, four to go for two teams in the OHL. Two of the best teams in the league have worked their way in to the J. Ross Robertson Cup Finals. One of the clubs has not faulted, while the other has made it to this point in the most dramatic way possible. With a fresh series in view, who will punch their ticket to Halifax?

Ottawa 67’s

One team that has been one of the best from game one of the regular season on, it should be no surprise that the 67’s are in this position. After finishing as the best team in the OHL during the regular season, they have taken the shortest path to the finals. They are the only team from the three leagues to enter the championship series undefeated. After defeating Hamilton and Sudbury, the 67’s took on the Oshawa Generals. Ottawa made quick and easy work of the Generals, and in impressive fashion. After winning game one with a 6-4 barn-burner, the 67’s took games two and three by a combined eight-goal margin. The Generals emptied their tanks in game four trying to stay alive, but Tye Felhaber’s second goal of game four in overtime eliminated the Generals, and sent Ottawa to their first Finals appearance since 2005, where they lost to the eventual Memorial Cup Champion London Knights.

Felhaber was exceptional once again for the 67’s. The Pembroke, ON native scored a pair of points in each of the four games, including scoring two goals in both games three and four. His linemate Sasha Chmelevski had eight points in the series as well, as he scored four points in game two, and assisted on both of Felhaber’s goals in game four. Before getting sucker-punched by Oshawa’s Anthony Salinitri in game three, rookie Marco Rossi was having a great series, scoring four goals and four assists in the first three games of the series. Michael DiPietro continues his swan song with another solid series in net. After giving up seven goals in the first two games of the series, the Vancouver prospect stopped 49 of the next 51 shots he faced, and leads all goaltenders in the playoffs in goals-against-average with a 2.26 GAA.

Guelph Storm

This team was put together at the Trade Deadline in order to become a legitimate contender. Despite the Storm finishing fourth in the West, they looked good in round one, where they swept Kitchener with ease. Things were not looking good in round two, as Guelph found themselves trailing 3-0 to the top-seed London Knights. However, the Storm rallied to win four straight and steal the series, setting up a matchup with the second-best team in the West in Saginaw. The Spirit took game one handedly 7-2, and the Storm looked like they were going to take game two, but a late goal from Bode Wilde and an overtime goal from Ryan McLeod put Guelph down two games for the second time this postseason. After the Storm took game three on home ice, Saginaw won game four to put the Storm on the ropes. Once again, Guelph turned things around and won three straight to punch their ticket to their fifth OHL Finals, and first since 2014.

Scoring for the Storm came from all over in the conference finals, and in bunches as well. Isaac Ratcliffe was consistent throughout the series, as the Philadelphia draft pick scored three multi-point games in the series, while amassing eight points in total against the Spirit. Dmitri Samorukov was a big-time producer from the blue line for Guelph, as the Edmonton prospect had 10 points in this series. His best game came in game five, where he helped turn the series around with three goals and an assist, with a +3 rating. You could not talk about Guelph’s series victory without mentioning the incredible set of performances from Nick Suzuki. The biggest pickup from the Trade Deadline showed his value when Guelph needed it most. The Montreal prospect scored 11 points in the series, including a four assist outing in game five. His highlight-reel goal in game six only helped solidify the notion that Suzuki is a big game player.


As Gorilla Monsoon stated before Andre the Giant took on Hulk Hogan at Wrestlemania III,

“The irresistible force meeting the immovable object.”

The immovable object is the Ottawa 67’s. A team that has not lost all postseason, and has no intention in doing so. The irresistible force being the Guelph Storm. A team that no matter the pressure they are put under, they will come out victorious. Something has to give. DiPietro in net is as confident as ever, the same could be said about his counterpart, Anthony Popovich. The question will be, whic Popovich will the Storm get on any given night. While Popovich played amazing in the four wins in the conference finals, the three losses he did not look up to par. The battle of the offences will be the matchup to watch, as both lineups can light the lamp. Despite the Storm being arguably the toughest team Ottawa has faced in the these playoffs, will Guelph be able to get a single win from the 67’s? Let alone four? If Ottawa can take advantage of home ice and go up 2-0, it may be another short series win for the 67’s.

My Pick

Guelph puts a chink in the armour of Ottawa, but that’s it. 67’s win in five.

All statistics and records are from the OHL and Elite Prospects.

OHL Playoffs: Conference Finals Preview

Eight wins down, eight wins to go for four teams in the OHL. The second round saw some shorter and easy series for some, and for others it was tight and exciting series that went deeper than most thought. The teams are so close to the J. Ross Robertson Cup, they each can taste it. Which team will make it through and continue their quest to the Memorial Cup?

Eastern Conference

(1) Ottawa 67’s vs. (3) Oshawa Generals

In a series that expected minimal goal scoring due to the two that manned the nets, the series between Ottawa and Sudbury was anything but. Despite the series only going four games, the 67’s scored 18 goals on the Wolves’ Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen. Michael DiPietro had an interesting series in net. Thankfully the offencive support was there, as the Canucks prospect allowed 12 goals in the four games, but did earn a shutout in game two. Tye Felhaber, who finished tied for third in league scoring during the regular season, only tallied three assists in their first round series against Hamilton. Against, Sudbury, the Dallas prospect broke out for nine points in the series, including a hat trick in game one, and the series-clinching goal in the third overtime of game four. Kyle Maksimovich has been solid since being suspended for the first two games of the playoffs. After scoring four points in games three and four against the Bulldogs, the Hamilton-native led the 67’s with 10 points in round two.

The Generals make it to the conference finals for the first time since 2015, the year they won the Robertson and Memorial Cup. They did so by upending one of the best offences in the OHL, as Oshawa eliminated the favoured Niagara IceDogs in six games. After the IceDogs won the first two games at home, the Generals reeled off four straight, much thanks to the play of Kyle Keyser in net. After allowing eight goals in games one and two, the Boston prospect only allowed seven the rest of the series. Along with Brandon Saigeon, Kyle MacLean helped lead the offence against Niagara, as he got on the score sheet in five of the six games, with his seven points leading the Generals in the series.

The 67’s are looking extremely confident heading into this series. They dominated the first two series, but they now meet their toughest foe yet. Oshawa, with the help of Keyser, were able to shut down the IceDogs attack. This sets up another goaltender-friendly matchup as Keyser goes up against DiPietro. DiPietro did look shaky at some moments in that second round, but his offence bailed him out. With the momentum Oshawa built against Niagara, DiPietro will have to be at the top of his game, while Keyser will have to be exceptional to stop the outstanding 67’s scoring attack. The 67’s won three of the four games in Oshawa during the regular season, while the teams split the four games in Ottawa. 

My Pick

Generals will make it interesting, but the 67’s will pull it out in the end. Ottawa in seven.

Western Conference

(2) Saginaw Spirit vs. (4) Guelph Storm

The Saginaw Spirit had a rather compelling series against the Soo in the second round. After taking game one, the Spirit lit the Greyhounds up for 10 in game two, followed by a 7-5 barn burner win. After the Greyhounds won games four and five to avoid the sweep and make things interesting, Saginaw settled down to win game six to make it to their first ever conference final. Owen Tippett continued to impress, scoring nine points against the Greyhounds, all in the first three games of the series. Ryan McLeod had a total of six points in the second round, with two goals and two assists in game two of the series.

Guelph comes in after completing an improbable comeback, I’m not just talking about coming from behind in game seven. The Knights went up 3-0 in the series, before Guelph stormed back with three wins. Despite the Knights being up 3-1 in game seven, the Storm never gave up. After Nick Suzuki made it a one-goal game, back-to-back goals from Isaac Ratcliffe gave the Storm a lead they would not relinquish, and would move on to their eighth conference final. Suzuki was incredible in the second round. After being held pointless in the first two games, the Habs prospect exploded for 12 points in the next five. Ratcliffe ended with seven points from the blueline, six in final three games of the series, including the two big tallies in game seven.

This series has offence written all over it. Tippett, McLeod and Brady Gilmour up against Suzuki, Ratcliffe and Nate Schnarr. Ivan Prosvetov and Anthony Popovich are going to look more like shooting targets than goaltenders. The games are going to be fast and wide-open with scoring chances galore. The tough part for these two teams is going to keep their emotions in check. Saginaw have the most penalty minutes of any team in the playoffs. Both teams power plays have not been staggering considering the firepower they possess, with Guelph having a slight advantage with a 21.4% power play compared to Saginaw’s 18.6%. The waves of momentum will be important as well throughout this series, as each team can score in bunches. Saginaw and Guelph split the four games between the two during the regular season, with each earning a win on the road.

My Pick

Guelph has a lot of emotion heading in following the comeback against London, but that emotion will wear them out, Spirit in six.

All statistics and records are from the OHL and Elite Prospects.

OHL Playoffs: Second Round Preview

OHL Playoffs: Second Round Preview

As the first round wraps up, there were not too many surprises coming out of the Ontario Hockey League, as all of the higher seeds won their series. This leads to some very interesting matchups between the best teams in their respective conferences. While the upsets in this round may not be as mind-blowing, the lower-seeds in these series could cause a stir, with hopes of making it to the conference finals.

Eastern Conference  

(1) Ottawa 67’s vs. (4) Sudbury Wolves

The 67’s made quick and easy work of the Hamilton Bulldogs, sweeping last year’s J. Ross Robertson Cup Champions in four games. Eight Ottawa players averaged a point a game against Hamilton, including Sasha Chmelevski and Lucas Chiodo, who each led the 67’s with seven points. Graeme Clarke was on fire for Ottawa in their opening round. Despite only scoring 23 goals in the entire regular series, the homegrown talent exploded for five in the first two games of the series, including a hat trick in game two.

The Wolves had similar depth scoring compared to their second round opponents, with six players scoring four points in their first round sweep over Mississauga. Rookie Quinton Byfield picked up right where he left off in the regular season, scoring three goals and four assists in the first round. Nolan Hutcheson was also impressive against the Steelheads. With an assist in each of the final three games of the series, the Kingston-native started the series with a bang, scoring a hat trick in game one.

Despite solid scoring from both teams, this series is all about the goaltenders. In a rematch of the World Junior Championship Quarterfinals, two of the best goaltenders in the entire CHL go head-to-head once again, as Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen faces off against Michael DiPietro. DiPietro did not face a whole lot of action against the Bulldogs, facing only 95 shots, while Luukkonen was stellar in his first round, only giving up eight goals on 147 shots. There is no question, which ever goaltender plays the best will help his team win the series.

My Pick

In January, it was Luukkonen who came out on top on Finland’s way to the gold. This time, DiPietro’s club will catch the breaks they need, and the 67’s will win the series in seven. 

(2) Niagara IceDogs vs. (3) Oshawa Generals

The IceDogs’ daunted offence was alive and well in the first round, outscoring North Bay 19-8 in the five-game series. Jack Studnicka was the leader of the attack for Niagara, scoring four goals and four assists in the five games. Philip Tomasino was also impressive, scoring six points against the Battalion. The star of the series was Stephen Dhillon. The Buffalo native gave up four goals in game two in his lone defeat in the series, but that was it. Dhillon had three shutouts in the series, including a 27-save performance in game five.

The Generals come in after a five-game series of their own, as they took care of the Peterborough Petes in round one. Anthony Salinitri was exceptional, leading the Gennies with eight points, including the game-winning goal in game five. Brandon Saigeon was the same playmaker Oshawa fans saw in the regular season, with six assists in the five games. Kyle Keyser played well in net for the Generals, only giving up nine goals on 172 shots in the series.

These two teams have not played often this season, as the two only met twice during the regular season. Each team won the game they hosted, with the Generals winning in overtime back in mid-November. It could be a low-scoring matchup with Keyser and Dhillon manning the crease. With goals hard to come by, power play chances cannot be wasted, and the IceDogs have the better PP heading into the series with a 26.9% success rate. 

My Pick

The offencive weapons on Niagara’s roster will be too much, IceDogs win in six.

Western Conference

(1) London Knights vs. (4) Guelph Storm

The Storm cruised through their first round contests against Kitchener, sweeping the Rangers. Anthony Popovich was solid in net for Guelph, only giving up six goals in his four wins. Eight players all averaged at least one point per game in the series, including the returning Sean Durzi. While his health has been in question heading into the playoffs, the LA prospect was solid on the blueline, with +5 rating and five assists. Nate Schnarr continued to look impressive in the first round, scoring 10 points, second among all forwards. 

London had an easy first round as well, as they waltzed passed Windsor in a four-game sweep. Once again, defencemen Evan Bouchard and Adam Boqvist were offencive catalysts for the Knights. Bouchard’s two goals and eight assists were second among all OHLers in the first round, while Boqvist’s six goals was the most among any player in the first round, four of which coming on the power play. The big story was Alex Formenton’s 11 points in the first round, with nine of them being assists.

This matchup is certain to have a flair for the dramatic. Two very good offencive attacks, with the Knights arguably having the better d-core compared to their counterparts. With the possibility of a high-scoring series, it may come down to the goaltending to determine who wins this series. As stated earlier, Popovich was even keel against the Rangers, while London’s Jordan Kooy faced the least amount of shots in the first round, but gave up eight goals against Windsor. Guelph won four of the six matchups this season, including a pair at the Budweiser Gardens.

My Pick

Despite Guelph having more depth scoring than the Knights, Bouchard and Fromenton are certain game-changers for London. It will be close, but I have the Knights in seven.

(2) Saginaw Spirit vs. (3) Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds

Despite Sarnia making one last stand in game four, the Spirit finished off the Sting in style, with Blade Jenkins scoring the game-winning goal in overtime to complete the four-game sweep. Saginaw made quick work in the first round with help of deadline acquisition of Owen Tippet, whose five goals were the second-most in the first round. Brady Gilmour had an exceptional series against the Sting, with six assists, including two in the series-clinching game.

The Greyhounds were caught off guard in the their opening round series against Owen Sound. The Attack stunned the Soo in game one, winning in overtime. The following four games saw the Greyhounds take their opponent much more seriously, winning the next four games by a 12-goal margin. Morgan Frost was solid, as per usual, scoring nine points. Barrett Hayton led the Greyhounds in the series with 10 points, and Keeghan Howdeshell stepped up, scoring five goals in the four game series.

Looking at the season series, you would think this matchup would be tight, with each team having four wins apiece. However, the games have not been that close, as the Greyhounds win over the Spirit back on March 14th was the only one-goal game between the two this season. The series could go either way, and with it being the playoffs, you could expect the games to be much closer. Neither Ivan Prosvetov nor Matthew Villalta were impressive in net, however one of them will have to step up against these two exceptional offences.

My Pick

In another offencive display, Tippet and the gang will take over the series, Spirit in six.

All statistics and records from the OHL and Elite Prospects.

Ottawa 67s: An Interview With Cedrick Andree

The Ottawa 67s have been the best team in the OHL this season.

So what has made them so good? An elite coaching staff, an exciting young roster and consistent and stable play between the pipes seem like the proper ingredients to the success the 67s have seen.
The OHL season is over now, and the top-seeded Ottawa 67s are set to face off against the eighth-seeded Hamilton Bulldogs in the first round.

The 67s Goalie Tandem

One of the biggest strengths for the 67s is their goaltending tandem. Their two goaltenders are Cedrick Andree and Michael DiPietro. Both goalies, have had an excellent season. In 45 games played this season, Andree has a 2.48 goals against average (GAA) and a .910 save percentage (SV%). His teammate, DiPietro was traded to the 67s prior to the OHL Trade Deadline. In 17 games with the 67s, DiPietro registered a 2.51 GAA and a .897 (SV%). These two goaltenders have been nothing but outstanding and they’l be pivotal to the club’s success in the OHL playoffs.

Interviewing Andree

Embed from Getty Images

Yesterday, I had the chance to speak with 67s goaltender Cedrick Andree about what it means to play for the team he grew up supporting, what factors contributed to his success this season, and what the 67s will need to do to claim victory against the Bulldogs. The interview went as follows.
AH: “As a native of Orleans (suburb of Ottawa), what does it mean to you to play for the team you grew up supporting?”
CA: “It’s definitely awesome. I used to go to games as a kid and I would take my shirt off and spin it around, I was one of those kids. I remember one day I got a puck and actually kept in inside of a coffee grinder to preserve it. I ended up losing the puck, which sucked, but to be in my hometown it’s definitely awesome and kind of insane. I never thought I would reach this point when I was a kid.”
AH: “The Ottawa 67s have been the best team in the OHL this season and they’ve seen a massive improvement from previous seasons. What’s been the key to your consistent elite play as a team this year?”
CA: “We have an awesome coaching staff. They always have video ready for us every day and we’re actually one of the only teams that practices in the morning. They changed around the whole schedule from last year. It also helps a lot when you go to training camp and all of the graduates come back. In training camp you see a bunch of faces from the year before that you remember, we didn’t lose any guys, so I think just the way all of the guys clicked together this year and the bond that we had from last year really helps.”
AH: “Chemistry is obviously an important factor and it seems like you guys have a lot of that.”
CA: “Yeah, most of the guys from last year’s team came to training camp this season and right away we kind of knew it was going to be a good season. Just the way all of the guys get along really helps.”
AH: “You and Michael DiPietro recently won the Dave Pinkney Trophy for the fewest goals allowed of any tandem. What does it mean to you to win that award in just your second season?
CA: “It definitely means a lot. Last year I only had one win, my numbers were pretty awful. Going into this season I only had one goal and it was to not get cut, so to have a season like this is definitely unbelievable. I never really thought it would happen but I put the work in over the summer and I guess it paid off eventually. To win an award like that, it also helps a lot to have a team like I have in front of me so it’s definitely awesome. It was a year to remember.”
AH: “That kind of brings me to my next question. You finished statistically as one of the best goalies in the OHL this season. Your success this year compared to last year has just been astonishing. I was just wondering what’s been the difference between your rookie season and your sophomore season?”
CA: “There were a lot of reasons. One of them was definitely the fact that I was out of high school this year and I had less crammed of a schedule. I had more time to relax, I went to bed earlier, I didn’t have any homework, it’s just more stress-free. We also have a new goalie coach, Charlie MacTavish. He lives in Ottawa, so I knew him personally and he was there every day to help me out. He would show us video every day. Our old goalie coach was great, but he was from Toronto and he would only be able to fly in once every few weeks for, say, three or four days at a time. It also definitely helps that I have a solid squad in front of me this year.
AH: “So would you say that the mental aspect was the biggest factor contributing to your success?”
CA: Yeah, the mental factor was huge. Not many people know this, but I saw a sports psychologist over the summer which really helped me to relax. I also had a really good preseason, but as soon as the regular season started, I was one of the worst goalies in the league three games in and I began to think that it was going to be like last year again. The coach had a talk with me and essentially told me that in the preseason I was joking around and having fun, but as soon as the regular season started I became more uptight and started losing as a result. He told me “I know that’s not you. If you goof around and be yourself before games, I won’t care. Just go out there and have fun.”. Right after we had that conversation, I started to be myself again and it paid off. The team went on a 15 game winning streak. That talk with the coach really helped out.”
AH: “That’s awesome to hear. Everybody has a different mindset that works for them and it sounds like the change in yours really paid off for you.”
CA: “Yeah, definitely. I owe that one to my coach for sure, he saved me there. Me and Mikey (DiPietro) are a lot different in that sense and we always joke around about it. He’s more of a ‘put your head down, focus’ kind of guy and I’m more relaxed. If I’m too stressed then I’m too tight for the game and that didn’t really work for me.”
AH: “You were recently named the second most underrated player in the league in the OHL’s coaches poll. How does that make you feel?”
CA: It’s definitely fun. I never really thought about it beforehand but this kind of achievement really made me happy seeing how the coaches acknowledged me. All season long it was kind of a question in my mind, like “Am I really being noticed?”, you have all these big names like the draft coming up, and I wasn’t included in the draft rankings and all that so I was kind of like “Okay, do people just think I’m a decent goalie on a good team?”. It was always a question in my mind so to see the coaches recognize me kind of shielded that and helped me focus on other things, so it really made me happy.”
AH: “Earlier you were mentioning the fact that you have a great team in front of you, and part of what makes you guys so exciting to watch is the fact that you have a team that’s full of exciting young talent. How instrumental have the play of guys like Marco Rossi been to your team’s success?”
CA: Marco has definitely been awesome. He’s a young import and I heard he was a big name coming into this season but I really didn’t know how instrumental he was going to be to the team and now he’s possibly a shoo-in for rookie of the year. Both of our imports in Nikita (Okhotyuk) and Marco have been solid.
AH: “You’re of Dutch heritage correct?”
CA: “Yes”
AH: “How much would you say your Dutch heritage defines you as either a person or as a hockey player?”
CA: “My Dutch heritage means a lot to me. I have a lot of family out there, and this is a little bit off topic but we took a trip out there to visit them when I was 14 or 15 and we ended up contacting the U16 National Team coach and I ended up meeting him. Hockey, in terms of popularity there is comparable to say, rugby, in Canada. If you say hockey out there, they assume it’s field hockey. So I talked to the national team coach and he basically told me that if I ever wanted to play on the U16 or U18 team, to give him a shout and I would be guaranteed a spot. At this point, if I wanted to play for the national team there, I would have to play two years in a program over there. I could probably play for them if I wanted to, but the program over there isn’t too strong.”
AH: “Who were some of your biggest inspirations growing up?”
CA: “I’ve kind of bounced around a little bit. My first ever “fall-in-love” inspiration was Martin Biron, that was when I was younger. When I was a little bit more into it I really liked Cam Ward, I had a little thing for Ray Emery for a little bit. In the past couple years, I’ve become a big fan of Marc-Andre Fleury, he has the personality and mindset that I try to have when I play. And lately, I’ve started looking at Andrei Vasilevskiy as an inspiration. He’s trained in Ottawa every summer ever since he was 18, and I’ve actually gotten the chance to skate with him a couple of times. He trains at the same place that the goalie coach for the 67s does.”
AH: “I have one more question for you. The Ottawa 67s finished in the eighth seed last year and lost in five games to the top-seeded Hamilton Bulldogs in the first round. This year, the roles are swapped and the 67s are at the top facing off against the 8th place Bulldogs. How important is this series to you guys as a team and what will be the key to beating them as well as ideally advancing to the Memorial Cup?
CA: “First thing’s first, our coach always preaches not necessarily focusing on the results, but more so the process. And that’s going to be our goal for the series. Not getting too down if we lose a game, not getting too ahead of ourselves if we win a game, stuff like that. Our coach didn’t even look at the standings until near the end of the season and then out of nowhere he was like “Okay boys, I just found out that we have a chance to break the franchise record for points in a season. I know I don’t talk about points, but this time I am. Let’s go out and do this.”. He never looks at the standings and always preaches focusing on the process and what’s going on in the moment. He was great that way, and I don’t think he’s going to change anything heading into the playoffs. We’re going in with that same mental aspect, and if things work out then things will work out. I will say though, if we beat Hamilton in the first round, that will be sweet revenge. We’re going to be coming out hungry for a win.”
AH: “Perfect. Well, best of luck to you guys in the first round and thanks for taking the time to speak with me!”
CA: “Thanks a lot!”
Puck77 would like to extend a massive thank you to Cedrick Andree for taking the time to talk to us about life as an Ottawa 67s.
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