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Bulldogs fall in overtime, down 3 games to 1 against 67’s

Brantford BulldogsBulldogs fall in overtime, down 3 games to 1 against 67's

The Brantford Bulldogs are on the brink of elimination from the playoffs after losing 6-5 in overtime to the Ottawa 67’s at TD Place Arena in Ottawa on Thursday, April 4, 2024. 

Like all the previous three games, the Bulldogs scored first. Left winger Marek Vanacker intercepted the puck in the neutral zone from 67’s defenceman Samuel Mayer. Vanacker then rifled the puck past the right side of 67’s netminder Collin MacKenzie for his third of the playoffs. For the rest of the first period, the Bulldogs frustrated the 67’s with stiff forechecks, great defence, and strong goaltending from Matteo Drobac.

The Bulldogs continued to gain momentum in the second period, and they doubled their lead 47 seconds in. Ben Bujold shot the puck from the Ottawa blue line, initially stopped by MacKenzie, but he fumbled the puck, and right winger Adrian Rebelo took advantage by jamming the loose puck for his first career OHL playoff goal.

The 67’s got on the board at 4:57. On the power play, after setting the play up with passing near the Brantford blue line, 67’s centre Braeden Kressler shot the puck through a screen in front of Drobac. Drobac made the great pad save off the tip from defenceman Matthew Mayich, but Mayer tucked in the loose rebound past Drobac to cut the Bulldogs lead to 2-1.

Brantford restored their two-goal lead on the man advantage. With 5:14 left in the middle frame, centreman Jake O’Brien made a sharp cross-ice pass to the right winger Zakary Lavoie, whose one-timer shot got past MacKenzie for his first goal of the playoffs. With the goal, the Bulldogs scored their first power-play goal since game one, snapping their 0-for-10 slump in the process. 

With 39.4 seconds left in the period, Ottawa closed the gap. Mayer’s shot from the Brantford blue line went through traffic and past Bulldogs netminder Drobac’s glove side.

The Ottawa 67’s offence pressed hard in the early minutes of the third period and found paydirt. Kressler made a sharp blue-line pass to defenceman Henry Mews on the power play. From the Bulldogs’ blue line, Mews rifled a shot past the Bulldogs’ defensive screen and past the undetected Drobac to tie the game at 3-3. Ottawa continued their offensive assault over a minute later. Mews shot the puck from the centre area of their attacking zone, but it was redirected by Brad Horner and past the stick side of Drobac for their first lead of the game at 4-3.

The 67’s doubled their lead with 5:24 left in the period. From the back end of their zone, defenceman Frankie Marrelli made the sharp pass to right winger Will Gerrior. Gerrior skated through the Brantford defence in the neutral zone, outmuscled Bulldogs defenceman Cedrickson Okitundu and deked Drobac for a 5-3 Ottawa lead. 

But the Bulldogs refused to quit, which showed in the period’s final five minutes. The late comeback started with 2:52 left in regulation, on the man advantage and with an extra attacker. Left winger Patrick Thomas sets up the play from their blue line, delivering a quick pass to Lardis at the left circle, who then passed to Lavoie for the one-timer past MacKenzie for his second of the game and playoffs.

In the final minute of regulation, the Bulldogs tied the game. With Drobac pulled for an extra attacker, Lavoie quickly passed from their own zone to Vanacker in the neutral zone. Vanacker skated to the right side of their attacking zone, drew attention to the Ottawa defence, and made the great feed to the wide-open Lardis, who beat MacKenzie, tying the game at five and forcing overtime for the first time in the series.

In the overtime period, the Bulldogs outshot the 67’s 6-2, getting several quality chances in the first half of the extra frame. But the 67’s ended the game with 9:37 left, courtesy of Mayer’s shot getting past Drobac for the game winner. 

The series heads back to Brantford for a must-win game five for the Bulldogs on Saturday, April 6, 2024.

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