The top-seeded 67’s are preparing for a tougher series. Sudbury was the hottest team in the league in the second half of the regular season, so running away with the victory won’t come as easily for Ottawa as it did in the previous round.
“If you look at the numbers, Sudbury’s the best team in the league since January 10. They had 46 points — we were just behind them,” head coach André Tourigny told Global News.
“So, we know they’re a really good team. They’re the second-best defence in the league. They have a team who play well defensively, work really hard and they’re physical, so we respect them a lot.
“At the same time, we’re confident in what we can do and we believe in ourselves. But we know that it will be a hard battle.”
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The physicality that Tourigny spoke of is something Ottawa is used to seeing from the opposition. The series with Hamilton featured numerous penalties, especially in the first two games.
While the coach expects some degree of physical play to be an inevitability, he’s looking for his team to remain disciplined and avoid giving the Wolves any unnecessary advantages.
“Yeah, it will be physical, but I think both teams know how tough it will be to score goals in that series,” Tourigny said. “We have a really good goaltender, same for them, so I don’t think we can (get in the habit) of taking penalties and (giving) power plays.
“We will want to play really well defensively and make sure we play well on both sides of the puck. So, I think it will be physical but I don’t think it will be vicious.”
The 67’s will be facing one of the top goalie prospects in all of hockey when the two teams meet. Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen posted a league-best .920 save percentage during the regular season before following it up with an even more impressive .946 percentage in a first-round sweep of Mississauga.
Tourigny and his team understand the challenge that awaits them, but they have faith in their ability to find the back of the net.
“(Luukkonen is) a big piece of their team. Last year they had the first overall pick at the import draft and they draft a 19-year-old goalie who will be with them for one year, so they knew how good he was and how important he will be for their team,” he said. “So, we respect that but at the same time, we have good goal scorers, good offence.
“First and foremost, we’ll have to get to him in the sense that they have a pretty good team defensively, they defend pretty well. So, we’ll have to do our thing, play right on both sides of the puck and we cannot overthink against them.”
One of the keys to Ottawa’s offensive success this year has been their forward depth, with Tourigny saying that it’s “the way we’re built as a team — all our lines can produce.” The team got contributions from more than just their top two lines, with numerous different contributors stepping up when needed.
“That’s the way we played all year long. We had injuries, we had guys who were gone to the world juniors and our depth made the difference,” he said. “We kept winning because those guys were capable of scoring goals and defending, so it won’t be any different in this series.
“We’ll need our depth, we’ll need everybody to be on board and it will be a chess game.”
The series gets underway Friday, April 5 at 7:00 p.m. at TD Place Arena.
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