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BELLEVILLE, ON - A rematch of last season's Eastern Conference Quarterfinal saw the Bulls overwhelm the Ottawa 67's 5-3 on Saturday night at the Yardmen. Sending 46 shots on the Ottawa goal, the Bulls used the big ice to their advantage as four players had multi-point nights and the powerplay went 2 for 4.
The 67's appeared to be overwhelmed by the big ice in the opening twenty minutes of play, unable to find a solution to the Bulls' strong possession around the perimeter. It was the first time in five games that the 67's have played away from Scotiabank Place this season, as highly touted centreman Sean Monahan made his debut wearing the "C" for the barberpoles.
Unlike past outings this season, the Bulls were able to effectively translate their puck possession into quality scoring chances, peppering Ottawa rookie Jacob Blair with 16 shots between the pipes in the first.
One of those 16 attempts managed to beat the 67's netminder, as a dominant Bulls powerplay finally capitalized at the end of their two minute tenure. Stephen Silas beat Blair over the glove hand with a wrister from the high point after several highlight reel saves kept a persistent Bulls onslaught off the board. A slightly new look on the man advantage saw assists go to Michael Curtis and Garrett Hooey.
The 67's didn't scratch up much ice in the Belleville zone, registering five first period shots on Malcolm Subban, with a lone scoring opportunity off the stick of Steven Janes on a one-timer from the slot.
The Bulls shorthanded Bulls entered the second period looking to replicate their pace from the early going, but Ottawa's powerplay found a chink in the armour of the penalty kill as the Bulls surrendered their first shorthanded goal of the year. Power forward Steven Janes picked up his first goal of the season as a trailer off the rush after Jake Cardwell moved the puck up ice and dropped for his mate to snap a shot past Subban inside the post at 41 seconds of the second.
The Bulls revamped powerplay struck again at 16:29 burying it's 30th shot on goal of the evening, with a perfect cross-crease feed onto the stick of Garrett Hooey winding up in the back of the net. Michael Curtis picked the perfect time to slip a feed through the scoring area as the Belleville powerplay continued it's strong performance and led 2-1.
The powerful Bulls attack continued to chip away at Ottawa's scrambly defensive zone play, picking good shooting opportunities and using their point-men effectively. The game story through two periods was the play of Blair in goal, as he faced 21 scoring opportunities , surrendering just two goals.
A fast-paced affair with few stoppages spilled into the third period where the 67's showed plenty of fight despite the crippling deficit they found themselves in three minutes into play.
A pair of quick Bulls goals from Brendan Gaunce and Daniil Zharkov put Belleville up 4-1, prompting Ottawa coach Chris Byrne to call a timeout and rally his troops.
Gaunce's first of the season came just 1:49 into the third with assists from Sergey Kuptsov and Jordan Subban. With plenty of time and space, Gaunce beat Blair with a hard shot over the blocker after the Ottawa defence collapsed upon the Bulls entering the zone.
Zharkov, who was also given ample space to flash his high end skill, made the most of his opportunity, slamming a puck through the legs of Blair at 3:10.
Rather than fold up their tents, the 67's came back strong when Sean Monahan picked up his team's second powerplay goal of the night. Credit defenceman Jake Cardwell for pinching in off the point to make a nifty backhand pass to Monahan who made no mistake to bring Ottawa to within two.
The Bulls answered back with a decisive goal. First round draft selection Niki Petti picked up his first career OHL goal on another nice feed from Sergey Kuptsov. Petti used his speed to outrun the coverage of Ottawa defender Taylor Davis in the slot, poking a shot through Blair's five-hole at 8:44.
The 67's would tally late on a breakaway goal from Brett Gustavsen, but the Bulls were able to shut them down the rest of the way enroute to a 5-3 win.
Garrett Hooey, who played an integral role in the Belleville powerplay, was named the game's first star. "We've got about five games in the next eight days so it was nice to pickup two points tonight. You can't win five in a row if you lose the first one, so I thought it was a good overall effort from the guys tonight," he said.
Bulls Head Coach George Burnett said it was nice to see a few players get some weight off their shoulders. "It's good to see guys putting points on the board tonight, we were sending pucks to the net and although I wasn't thrilled with some of the sloppy play by us late, it was a good offensive effort."
Saturday's game saw 2,401 on hand at the Yardmen for Child Abuse Prevention Night. The 67's were without forwards Ryan Van Stralen (upper body) and Taylor Fielding (suspension), while goaltender Keegan Wilson was in a backup role due to a lower body injury.
The 3-2-0-0 Bulls will rest on Sunday before traveling to the General Motors Centre in Oshawa on Monday afternoon for a Thanksgiving duel with the Generals at 2:00pm.
The Bulls return home on Wednesday night when the Brampton Battalion come to town. For tickets, call the Bulls Box Office at 613-966-8338.