The Ottawa Senators continued to steamroll their competition right into a berth in the finals at the rookie tournament in Hull, Quebec.
It didn’t take long for the Senators to establish themselves as the team to beat in the tournament and they continued their success tonight with a 5-2 victory over the winless Phoenix Coyotes.
The physical affair saw plenty of hits and fights between the two clubs, including a fairly one-sided, heavy-weight tilt between Jay Leach of the Coyotes and the Senators’ Brian McGrattan that ended with Leach’s head careening off the ice.
“I think it was the most physical of the three games we’ve played,” says McGrattan. “We knew that they were the only winless team left in the tournament and that they would come out prepared to play physical and I think we handled it pretty well.”
It was the second fight of the tournament for the 6-foot-4, 225-pound forward and the third straight game he’s managed to get under the other team’s skin.
“I’m one of the bigger guys on the team and I don’t give anyone on the other team any respect,” he explains. “I don’t care if it’s a first-rounder, a late round pick or a walk-on, I’m going to go out and play the body on all of them. I’m going to play tough every night.”
Matthew Spiller, a defenceman with the Coyotes, says the physical game plan was something his team wanted to establish and take advantage of from the beginning.
“We just wanted to go out there and play hard and play them tough and hopefully get the game going our way,” he says. “For the most part we played physical and went to the net and it was working, but we just had a few lapses.”
Jan Platil took a pass from Jason Spezza before opening the scoring for the Senators midway through the first period. The goal came on a long, screened point shot that may have hit a leg in front before going five-hole on goaltender Josh Blackburn.
With less than three minutes left in the period, the Senators added to their lead with a pretty power play goal for Kyle McAllister. He finished off the play with an easy tap-in at the side of the net after a nice passing play from Anton Volchenkov and Brooks Laich.
Spezza put a short-handed marker on the board in the second with a snapper from the right wing before Phoenix replied with its first goal. Spiller took a shot from the far point on the power play that seemed to be tipped in front before diving behind goaltender Ray Emery, who shared the workload on the night with Paulo Colaiacovo.
“I just tried to take a low, hard shot on net and put it through traffic,” says Spiller, though he admits the shot may have been tipped by forward Jeff Taffe as he cruised in front. “I’ll take what I can get.”
Scott Dobben scored after some nice effort around the net to make the score 4-1 before Kyle McAllister added another power play goal to increase the lead to 5-1. Pat O’Leary added a late goal in the second to round out the scoring.
The Senators will now head to the finals and a match against the Florida Panthers Sunday night, while the Coyotes solidified their spot in the consolation round with the loss.
“The final game’s gonna be a much better game to evaluate your players than a consolation game,” says Senators coach Perry Pearn, who admits his team didn’t play as well as they have in previous games.
“Tomorrow’s probably going to be another physical game,” says McGrattan. “Florida’s a pretty good team and we’ll have to come out and be ready.”
Spezza took home player of the game for the Senators and Frantisek Lukes took the honours for the Coyotes.
HF wished to deeply thank Scott Petersen for his dedication and time in covering the Hull Tourney for Hockey’s Future.