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In the absence of a grizzled old veteran with a championship ring or a lengthy post-season run under his belt, Stittsville’s Alex Johnston will just have to do as the experienced voice of the Ottawa 67s. battle-ready and playoff savvy.

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Johnston’s playoff resume is the best of all 67 with 11 games and two postseason appearances as a 16-year-old third-row rookie with the Soo Greyhounds in 2018-19.

That’s just one game shy of the combined OHL playoff experience of the rest of the 67 with compatriot Adam Varga having played eight playoff games in two seasons with the Mississauga Steelheads and Cameron Tolnai with four with the 18- 19 67.

Unless you include the only playoff game Jack Matier played with the Soo Junior Thunderbirds as a minor midget or the only game Ranvir Gill-Shane played with the Ottawa Junior Senators.

So it will be a baptism of fire for the 67s and if any of the young 67s care to ask Johnston for playoff advice he will tell them there can only be one of two outcomes and that he knows both.

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“It’s just the feeling of winning a streak versus the feeling of losing a streak,” Johnston said. “It was the best….and the worst.

“I remember the electricity in the room after beating Owen Sound. Then I remember losing (to Saginaw) and suddenly it’s all over and you realize the band will never be together again. It’s hard to take that in the moment.

“Nothing replaces playoff experience.”

The prohibitive 67’s underdog traveled to North Bay on Wednesday for Game 1 Thursday night and Game 2 Saturday night against the CHL’s 8th-ranked Battalion.

The 67’s can only hope this isn’t their last road trip as the best-of-seven series returns to Arena at TD Place for games three and four on Monday and Wednesday.

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On paper, at least, the match should be a mismatch.

It starts in their respective folders. North Bay finished third overall in the OHL while the 67’s placed 14th.

The battalion is full of talent at the senior and 19-year-old level. The 67 is not as deep in either category.

This leads to the attacking gap between the two teams. The Battalion finished fifth in goals with 267 while the 67 were 20th, the only team in the entire league not to score 200 goals (199).

Individually, the battalion had three players in the top 10 in OHL scoring with Brandon Coe and his 34 goals and 101 points in fifth place. Matvey Petrov and Mitchell Russell finished 9th and 10th, Petrov with 40 goals and 90 points, Russell with 41 goals and 88 points.

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Coe and Russell were both plus-33 on the season Petrov was a plus-32.

As a team, the battalion had six players who finished in the top 71 in points, unlike the leading scorer of 67, rookie Vinzenz Rohrer who was 85th.

On special teams, North Bay has the 4th best power play and the 8th best penalty kill. Ottawa finished 17th on the power play and 14th on the penalty kill.

Pretty much the only tangible stat in favor of the 67s is the season streak where the 67s won three of six regular season meetings, lost another in a shootout, and were only outscored 16-14. .

That, and knowing that the 67s have played some of the best hockey in their last twelve games, winning five, gaining points in seven and losing five by one goal.

What’s even more impressive is that during that streak, the 67s faced two of the top three clubs in the Eastern Conference three times apiece, namely the Hamilton Bulldogs and Kingston Frontenacs. .

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And now they get second seed North Bay, a team they haven’t seen since Feb. 20.

Still, North Bay might be the best first-round opponent they could have drawn.

“(North Bay) was very consistent from start to finish,” 67s head coach Dave Cameron said. “They are well structured and they just don’t fight.”

Cameron hopes his five most experienced players can elevate their game and the rest will follow.

The big five would be Johnston, Varga, Jack Beck and Tolnai up front and Anthony Costantini in defence.

“If these five guys lead our team, the rest will follow,” Cameron said. “And by that, I don’t mean that the five have to be exceptional, but rather to be at the top of their game.”

The 67’s will go with 18-year-old rookie Max Donoso in goal. Donoso, who started the year with the CCHL’s Hawkesbury Hawks, won the job down the stretch and finished 11-9-6 on a sub-0.500 team while posting a goalscoring average allowed of 2.82 and a save percentage of 0.906.

“Playoff hockey is different hockey,” Johnston said. “It’s faster, the shots are harder and physically it’s completely different.

“Everyone is pretty excited to start. We played playoff-type games down the stretch.

“I think we are confident that we can beat anyone.”

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