By Sean Macey
A quick start by the Belleville Bulls was enough to save them from a third period breakdown that led to three straight Ottawa 67’s goals.
The Bulls came back to win 4-3 in overtime to even up the series at two games apiece Tuesday. The series now heads back to Ottawa for game five Friday.
It was a rough third period for Bulls’ goalie Malcolm Subban. He allowed three goals on 16 shots despite shutting Ottawa down for the first two periods.
“I just think that we got off our game-plan a little bit and obviously that’s what’s going to happen, they’re a good team and they capitalize on all their chances. We just have to stick to our game-plan and play a full 60 minutes,” said Subban.
Belleville holds the momentum heading back to Ottawa. The Bulls have won the last two games, although they weren’t able to win in the nation’s capital in either of the first two games.
“We’re just going to try and tighten up defensively and hold the neutral zone, and if we can do that we have a good chance to win,” said Belleville forward Austen Brassard.
Defenceman Brady Austin was the hero for the Bulls, scoring eight minutes into the extra frame.
“It feels pretty good,” he said. “Now we’re tied up in the series going back to Ottawa.”
“It’s huge to be honest, a good confidence booster. It’s better having it at 2-2 than 3-1,” said Subban.
The collapse seemed to be sparked after Bulls’ defender Jake Worrad lost a fight to 67’s forward Remy Giftopolous in the final 10 minutes of the period. Just 20 seconds later the OHL’s regular season leader in goals, Tyler Toffoli, walked right into the slot untouched and sniped Ottawa’s first goal on the team’s 27th shot. Ryan Van Stralen and Jake Cardwell followed up with goals of their own for the 67’s, sending the game into overtime.
It was a matter of time for Ottawa, as the Bulls were content to lay back in the third, often keeping a forward back at the offensive blue line when the puck was in Ottawa’s end.
The Bulls were fortunate to get two goals in the first five minutes of the game, enough to tie them over until overtime. Michael Curtis opened the scoring 52 seconds in, getting the crowd involved early. Brendan Gaunce followed up shortly after with a power play goal, giving the Bulls a quick 2-0 lead.
Ottawa was committed to playing a physical first period, but it proved to be the team’s downfall, taking three penalties in the period. The power plays led to Belleville outshooting the 67’s 14-6 heading into the second.
Subban, along with Ottawa goalie Petr Mrazek, were unbeatable, each stopping 14 pucks in the second.
The Bulls found themselves in a bit of penalty trouble in the third period, but four big saves from Subban kept the 67’s off the board, and brought the Yardmen Arena crowd of 2,363 people to their feet. The momentum paid off quickly as Brassard netted his first of the playoffs with 11 minutes left.
Ottawa outshot Belleville 16-11 in the third, but the Bulls were able to come back strong in the back-and-forth overtime period where the shots were 5-5.
The two teams are back in action Friday night in Ottawa, where the series is now a best of three.