Published March 26, 2023

Colts fall in Ottawa, turn focus to playoffs ahead

Will open first-round series Thursday at home
Barrie Colts Ottawa 67's

A meaningless 5-1 loss on the road Saturday afternoon to the Ottawa 67's brought the OHL regular season to end for the Barrie Colts.

Minutes later, the Colts already had their focus on something bigger.

The playoffs have arrived and for one of the OHL's best teams over the last four months they can't wait to get things started.

"A hundred per cent. I'm pretty excited," said centre Beau Jelsma, who set up Ben Pickell for Barrie's lone goal on Saturday. "I think we have a pretty good team here. I think we can do some damage in the playoffs."

Barrie finishes the season with an impressive 42-17-6-3 record, good enough for third place in the Eastern Conference and fourth overall in the OHL standings.

All this from a team that was hovering around the .500 mark in late November.

"As I said to the guys, we're proud of the season we've had," said Colts head coach Marty Williamson. "We battled hard most nights and gave it a good effort, even in this game. We lost our way in the second period a little bit.

"I thought we tried to push back in the third. Now it's over and done with, get some rest. We'll have a team meal on Monday, practice and get focused on whoever we got to play."

And exactly who that will be in Barrie for Game 1 next Thursday won't be known until late this Sunday afternoon.

A Sudbury win over Sault Ste. Marie and North Bay win over Mississauga and the Colts will face the Hamilton Bulldogs. A Sudbury loss in regulation and a Mississauga win or overtime loss or shootout loss against North Bay and it will be the Steelheads. A Mississauga and Sudbury loss and the Wolves will be here Thursday.

"It doesn't matter who we really play at all," said Jelsma. "It's a task that lies ahead and we got to bring our game every night. I think we can do that and go for a deep run this year."

Whoever it is they do face, Williamson believes the most important thing the Colts need to do is play their game.

"Between the three teams they all pose different problems and stuff we have to pay attention to, but it's mainly about our game," he said. "To play up our speed, be tenacious and discipline are kind of the trademarks of this hockey team and that's what the main point will be to continue and tweak depending on who we play."

The Colts have been a completely different team after a disappointing 7-4 loss to Niagara back on Nov. 25, 2022.

"I think in December we had enough of the up and downs," said Jelsma. "We just came together as a team and listened to our coaches. We paid attention to detail."

The turnaround got a huge boost at the trade deadline in mid-January when captain Brandt Clarke was returned to the team by the LA Kings and Tyler Savard and Braden Haché were acquired.

One of the OHL's top road teams, the Colts turned around a slow start on home ice and finished the year with almost identical records at home (21-9-3-1) and away (21-8-3-2).

"We've been an awfully good team in the second half and got compliments, even from (Ottawa coach) Dave Cameron and these guys," said Williamson. "We've been pretty consistent, resilient at times and all the things you want from a hockey team.

"That's what we want, is that kind of confidence going into the playoffs."

Limiting defensive mistakes was key. When the Colts played loose, games could get away on them. When they tightened things up, they were as tough to beat as any team in the OHL.

"It's the lessons that we learned in some of the games, especially the last time we played North Bay," said Williamson. "We gave up a couple of goals and you give away anything in playoffs it really can bite you in the rear end. You're not going to be perfect, but you really have to try to be perfect.

"If you tend to try and have the skill that we have, we'll be fine."

On Saturday, while the 67's started a fairly regular lineup, the Colts sat out plenty of regulars on Sunday. Evan Vierling, Ethan Cardwell, Brandt Clarke, Anson Thornton were all health scratches.

Barrie did get off to a good start on Pickell's first of the season to take a 1-0 lead into the second.

Ottawa took control in the second on a pair of goals by Brady Stonehouse sandwiched around the game winner by Anaheim prospect Pavel Mintukov to take a 3-1 lead.

Gavin Ewles and Logan Morrison iced it for the 67's (51-12-3-2) in the third who finished first overall and with the win set franchise records for wins (51) and points (107).

ICE CHIPS: Tyler Savard, Connor Punnett and Cooper Matthews remained out Saturday. Savard (head), who has been out since March 11, and Punnett, who was injured after delivering a body check on Thursday against Sudbury, are listed as day-to-day. "We remain fairly positive about both of them, so we'll know a lot more on Monday at practice how they've both come along," said Williamson. "We feel pretty positive that they'll both be in the lineup on Thursday." . . . Florida native Sam Hillebrandt made his third appearance in goal for Barrie, stopping 31 of 36 shots. Collin MacKenzie turned aside 25 of 26 shots to record his 21st win. . . Regardless of who Barrie faces, Game 2 of the opening round playoff series will be Saturday night at Sadlon Arena. . . . Former Colt Tyson Foerster scored an empty-net goal in a 3-0 win for the Philadelphia Flyers over the Detroit Red Wings on Saturday. The Alliston native's NHL career is off to an impressive start with 2 goals and 4 assists for six points in eight games. 

Banner image via Terry Wilson / OHL Images

What do you think of this article?

Have a breaking story?

Share it with us!
Share Your Story

What Barrie's talking about!

From breaking news to the best slice of pizza in town! Get everything Barrie’s talking about delivered right to your inbox every day. Don’t worry, we won’t spam you. We promise :)
Subscription Form
Consent Info

By submitting this form, you are consenting to receive marketing emails from: Central Ontario Broadcasting, 431 Huronia Rd, Barrie, Ontario, CA, You can revoke your consent to receive emails at any time by using the SafeUnsubscribe® link, found at the bottom of every email. Emails are serviced by Constant Contact

Related Stories