It might be easy to think Tyler Toffoli has done everything there is to do individually in four seasons in an Ottawa 67’s uniform, but there is a small piece of unfinished business.
The two-time Ontario Hockey League goal-scoring champion, who leads in playoffs goals this year with 10 through 12 games, would like to shake hands with opponents following Game 7 knowing his off-season wasn’t starting, but theirs was.
Toffoli has a chance to make that happen when the 67’s, after winning twice to stave off elimination in their Eastern Conference semifinal, take on the Barrie Colts in the Tuesday night series finale at the Civic Centre. The opening face will be just past 7 p.m.
The winning team earns 72 hours to prepare for the Niagara IceDogs, who will have had a full week off before the conference final begins Friday night at St. Catharines.
Toffoli, who turns 20 next Tuesday, was a wide-eyed rookie in 2008-09, when the Alex Pietrangelo-led Niagara IceDogs finished Logan Couture’s career as a 67 in the opening round: in overtime of Game 7, no less. The goal by Andrew Agozzino also finished Brian Kilrea’s amazing run as 67’s head coach.
The following year, 2009-10, was no easier. The 67’s eliminated Niagara in the first round and led 3-2 in the conference semis, but the Mississauga St. Michael’s Majors won Game 6 at home and dumped a listless 67’s bunch 5-3 in the deciding game in Ottawa.
The 67’s lost four straight to the Sudbury Wolves in the opening round a year ago, so they didn’t even make it to Game 7.
“They are the tough ones to lose,” Toffoli said Monday as the 67’s arrived home from Barrie after a layover in Trenton. “It’s tough getting knocked out that way. You remember them the most.
“We just have to play the way we have the last two games: play all three zones. And we have to get the lead and keep it. You don’t want to get down in a seventh game.
“The first time was a tough loss in overtime. Then the next time Mississauga scored a couple of late goals. It’s not easy going (out) that way.”
Besides home ice, the 67’s have momentum on their side. They have outplayed the Colts in five of the six games, marred only by a poor effort in a 5-2 defeat in Game 3.
They have also played with the lead for a total of 165 minutes, compared to Barrie’s 84.
All of that means nothing, though, or nothing once the puck is dropped.
Both teams are tired. Both have seen enough of Highways 400 and 401. Both have seen enough of each other, in particular 67’s centre Sean Monahan, who has been going head-to-head with the Colts’ Mark Scheifele.
The 67’s have accomplished some of the goals they set early this season, such as finishing first in the Eastern Division standings, posting at least 20 wins both home and away and going deep in the playoffs.
The conference final, a league final and a trip to Shawinigan for the Memorial Cup are also on the list, but getting a chance to realize those goals depends on Game 7 against the Colts.
“I don’t think we’re satisfied yet,” Toffoli said. “One of our goals was a Memorial Cup, so we’re not there yet, but for sure it feels good to keep going like we are.
“I think everybody is a little tired right now. (Barrie) has to be. They are playing just a few guys a lot of minutes.
“I was tired (after Game 6), but lots of water and a good night’s rest and we’re all ready again. With a Game 7, the adrenalin will be pumping.