By Dan Plouffe
The year where lots of big things could come the way of Cody Ceci got off to an ideal start last night as the Orleans defenceman scored the game-winning goal for his Ottawa 67’s in a 2-1 victory over the Belleville Bulls in front of 7,286 fans at the newly-named J. Benson Cartage Centre.
“It was good to get the first win out of the way, and personally, to get the first goal out of the way,” said Ceci, who felt snakebitten at the start of last season before picking things up midway through to finish with nine goals and 25 assists. “I was happy to sort of keep up my end to last season and hopefully carry it over into this year.”
Ceci added that he’s looking for bigger offensive numbers this season – somewhere in the neighbourhood of 15 goals and 50 points ideally – and if the play for the second-period game-winner was any indication, those totals could even be a bit low.
The former Cumberland minor hockey player snuck in sleekly from his point position on the powerplay and banged one home from close range at the 7:53 mark in the second – one of many plays where the 17-year-old jumped up to contribute on the offensive end.
“That comes with being in the league for a while,” explained Ceci, who attended Team Canada’s summertime world junior evaluation camp and also received an honourable mention from TSN as a potential top-10 draft pick. “You get more comfortable out there and stay more calm on the blue line and you can run stuff better.”
Shane Prince got his season off on the right foot as well with a close-range goal of his own, but the game didn’t finish as well for him as reports indicate the Ottawa Senators draft pick will miss 2-4 weeks with a shoulder injury suffered in the third period.
Austen Brassard scored for Belleville, while Petr Mrazek blocked 25 shots in the 67’s net during a game that featured a trio of fights and a pair of fairly hard collisions between Ottawa players and Bulls goaltender Malcolm Subban.
67’s coach Chris Byrne saw room for improvement from his squad, but couldn’t complain too much about the two points in his club\’s season opener.
“I thought we made some mistakes early and sometimes we were a little too aggressive and took penalties we didn’t have to take,” Byrne said. “But for the most part, it was a good team effort. Guys worked hard together, so we’re happy with the result.”
Ottawa faces Kingston next at 2 p.m. on Sunday at the J. Benson Cartage Centre. J. Benson Cartage, a Metcalfe trucking company, was the lucky winner of the 67’s promotion where small businesses paid $1,000 to enter a draw for the naming rights to the Ottawa Civic Centre for one year.
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