Coming off a weekend where the Erie Otters lost two of three games, they looked to start this weekend with a bang in their pursuit of home ice advantage throughout the OHL playoffs.
If one game is any indication, the Otters are off to a wonderful start.
Anthony Cirelli Returns
Paced by the return of Anthony Cirelli, the Otters scored a franchise-record eight goals in the second period en route to a dominating 10-1 win over the Niagara Icedogs Friday night at Erie Insurance Arena. The win gave the Otters a record of 45-12-2-1 on the season, including a 28-0-1-1 record at home. Cirelli’s energy started a memorable night in Erie.
The Icedogs played a solid first period, primarily because their goaltender Stephen Dhillon stopped everything thrown at him. They also got an unassisted goal from Ondrej Machala at 8:56 to take the early lead. The first period ended 1-0 for the Icedogs. The Otters held a 14-7 shots advantage.
We knew Erie would make a push in the second period. But what happened in the next 20 minutes had never happened before in the history of the Otters. The play made by Cirelli to tie the score jump-started the team.
— Kathryn Jean (@msconduct) March 4, 2017
After Ivan Lodnia put the puck on net, Dhillon left a rebound. Cirelli split a pair of Icedog’s defenders and beat Dhillon over his shoulder. This energy by Cirelli sparked one of the greatest offensive periods in recent memory.
A Historic Second Period
The Otters scored seven more in the period. Cirelli finished with a second-period hat trick. Alex DeBrincat scored twice to extend his goal streak to 15. He’s just three short of the OHL record for most consecutive games with a goal. Jordan Sambrook, Christian Girhiny and Cameron Lizotte also scored for the Otters in that unforgettable second period.
How unforgettable was it for the Otters? They outshot the Icedogs a staggering 29-2 in the period. Overall, the Otters led 36-9. It didn’t get better for the Icedogs in the third period.
The Otters added two more goals thanks to Girhiny and then a penalty shot (yes, a penalty shot) goal by Lizotte. Lizotte had two goals in his first 200 OHL games. He finished Friday with two goals. He also had the quote of the night after the game on his penalty shot.
— Victor Fernandes (@GoErieHockey) March 4, 2017
Shots in the third period were 17-5 Otters. For the game, the Otters outshot the Icedogs 60-14. At one point, the Otters were up 47-11 in shots, meaning they went on a 40-4 run. I don’t recall ever seeing that kind of domination in an OHL game.
Otters Still Have Lots to Do
As fun as this game was for the Otters, it’s still just one game where they got two points. The London Knights kept pace with them by scoring five answered goals against the Kitchener Rangers to win 5-4 in regulation. Both teams enter Saturday the way they entered Friday, with the Otters up by four in the race for first overall in the league. The Knights play Saturday afternoon in Windsor in a game the Spitfires desperately need if they want home-ice advantage in the first round. The Otters will host their likely first round opponent in the Sarnia Sting.
Both the Otters and Knights have eight games remaining, including twice in a span of four days. The Otters are in London Mar. 10 while the Knights are in Erie Mar. 14.
If the Otters take care of their business and win out, they’ll enjoy home-ice throughout the OHL playoffs. Considering they haven’t lost in regulation at home, they’ll do whatever it takes to get that advantage.
After Saturday’s game against the Sting, the Otters get a return match against the Icedogs in Niagara. These are games the Otters should win. We’ll see if they can avoid any letdown in their quest for the top seed.
Friday night was fun. But there’s still business left to attend to for the Otters.