67's blow lead, lose 4-2 to IceDogs
The Ottawa 67's got off to a good start on Friday night, but stepped away from their game plan mid-way through the second period and it was all Niagara from there.
Things started well for the Ottawa 67's when they took a 2-0 lead on the Niagara IceDogs, but turned south in the second half of the game when the Niagara IceDogs took over control and eventually won by a 4-2 score.
Senators prospect Cody Ceci struggled at times, despite the fact that he notched another assist (he's now got 6P in 3GP this year). Ceci was on the ice for three of the four goals scored against, and was at last partially at fault on the first goal (where he pinched at the defensive blue line but missed the puck, leaving his partner in a 2-on-1 situation) and third (where he wasn't able to contain his check in front of the net). He didn't come advertised as a defensive defenceman, but it's obvious that that's the side of the game Ceci needs to work on most this season. One thing that would certainly help Ceci would be a reunion with Michal Cajkovski, who he'd played with in the previous two games but not on Friday, but it appears the 67's coaching staff wants to spread out the defensive talent rather than loading up one pairing.
Rookie 67's goaltender Jacob Blair made his OHL debut in the second period after Ottawa's starter Keegan Wilson left the game with a lower-body injury (they even use that lame hide-the-injury tactic in major junior, it seems). Blair looked strong at first, and did stop 22 of 25 shots faced, and can only really be faulted for one of the goals he allowed (the second goal, a clear shot from the point that got past Blair because he hadn't cut off the angle). Although he's got some mobility issues, he takes up a lot of the net, so I won't be surprised to see him get a few extra starts even if Wilson is healthy--especially considering Wilson's struggles in the first two games of the season.
In other NHL prospect news, New York Islanders draft pick Ryan Strome scored two goals, including the empty-netter, and Dougie Hamilton notched an assist. Strome was much more noticeable on the ice, but Hamilton was a good defensive presence.
One player who really impressed me was 67's forward Brett Gustavsen. Although Gustavsen's just 5'7" and 170lbs, he was buzzing all night, quickly pressuring the IceDogs' defenders, turning pucks over, and generally making good things happen for the 67's. He assisted on Ottawa's second goal with a sweet drop-pass, had one terrific back-check that I can recall, and in some ways brought to mind Martin St.-Louis as a smaller player with a big game. Not to suggest Gutavsen will develop into a player of St.-Louis' calibre, but I would say they've got similar work ethics on the ice.
I should also get back to Cajkovski, who impressed me once again. He was on the ice for two goals against, but one (the second IceDogs' goal) was right off the draw so there was nothing Cajkovski could do, while the other was the empty-netter. The guy's big, and I'm really impressed by his acceleration and skating--especially considering his size. If his play keeps up, it wouldn't surprise me too much to see him get offered a two-way NHL deal if he doesn't head to the KHL next season. (He was expected to sign in Russia this season, but was left without a deal since KHL teams wanted to leave room to sign locked-out NHL players; he did attend the Los Angeles Kings' development camp last season.)
I've now seen parts of all three 67's games so far this season, and was actually at two of them. So far, my thoughts on Ceci are that he's a good skater and he's got a good shot, but he needs to work on his defensive positioning and could stand to use his size to his advantage more often. It's still very early in the season, though; there's lots of time for him to work that out. But he might be farther away from NHL-ready than I'd thought based on what I'd heard after he was drafted.