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Cameron Tolnai was just starting to show off his offensive prowess when the 2019-20 season was abruptly brought to a halt due to COVID.

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Twenty months later, and his pivotal draft season lost, Tolnai begins to show once again why the Ottawa 67’s made the Ontario Minor Hockey Association’s minor midget player of the year the sixth pick in the league. 2018 Ontario Hockey League Draft total.

Tolnai is now averaging better than one point per game in his last 21 games dating back to March 2020, having scored three more goals as the 67’s came back on the power play with three power play goals in 4:34 am to beat the Peterborough Petes 6-3 in the TD Place arena on Friday night.

Tolnai was instrumental in the 67’s first, third and sixth goals and now has 24 points in his last 21 regular season games and 13 points in his first 11 games this season.

The turning point of the game was a major kick for the Petes’ JR Avon at 9:44 of the third period.

The game was tied 3-3, the 67’s responded with back-to-back goals from Vsevolod Gaidamak, the ever-stable Jack Matier and Jack Beck with his second on the night to win from the start.

And the four-game mini homestand continues Sunday afternoon against North Bay followed by a fifth meeting already this season with Kingston on Tuesday and Mississauga on Friday.

Now, Tolnai is hardly the first overlooked player in his draft year, only to rebound with a solid season at 19, except Tolnai never had his season at 18.

The best example is the former Barrie Colt and now the Vancouver Canuck Tanner Pearson. He went from 15 goals as an 18-year-old rookie in the OHL to 37 goals and 91 points at 19 and heard his name called 30th overall in the 1992 draft by the Los Angeles Kings.

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Pearson’s example did not escape Tolnai’s agent, Dave Gagné, the former NHL star.

“He told me that Pearson was someone I could emulate,” Tolnai said.

And Pearson is far from one of a kind.

Three years later, every NHL team ditched Andrew Mangiapane, still with the Colts, before Calgary called him in Round 6 and he became a regular in the NHL at 21.

Tolnai was really emerging in 2019-20 into a stacked 67’s squad, especially in the home stretch of the sharply cut season. He has had regular minutes and scored four goals and 10 points in the last 10 games before closing.

And oh how much a long run in the playoffs would have helped.

A year away from the competition didn’t cool Tolnai either.

Tolnai came out of the fall with four goals and 11 points in the top 10. He also has a plus-10 differential against the opposing top line. That’s 14 points and a plus-12.

“It was definitely a tough pill to swallow,” Tolnai said of the season that never was. “I was playing pretty well and starting to get offensive numbers like I did in minor hockey.

“I think things changed when Grammer (Graeme Clarke) came back from injury and we scored three goals in the first half of this game.

“But I didn’t feel sorry for myself. This is what sand it is that I got a lot of help from my support group. I knew I could only control what you could control. No need to sulk.

And Tolnai barely spent the season without hockey on the couch at home in Oakville.

He and some hockey friends rented a space to train and twice a week he trained on the track at his old high school. There has been a lot of skills work under the guidance of Anthony Eliza, who has worked with the Montreal Canadiens and Toronto Maple Leafs, as well as skating and skating. Even hockey with friends, which, although without contact, has always become quite competitive.

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Tolnai was instrumental in the 67’s opening goal after L’Orignal native Samuel Mayer got his friends and family to stand up in Section 21 by opening the game for the Petes at just 1: 29 in.

Seven minutes later, Tolnai patiently stepped off the boards and circled Petes’ net before feeding Beck for his 10th of the season, the team leader.

Brenden Sirizzotti gave the 67’s a 2-1 lead and it held until the end of the second when Peterborough’s Tucker Robertson equalized on the power play.

Carp native Joe Carroll continued his strong start with a decisive goal for the Petes early in the third, but the 67’s weren’t over.

Sirizzotti tied it at 8:34 and a minute later the 67’s got the five-minute advantage.

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