The Erie Otters desperately needed a spark.
They could not afford to drop Game 2 to their rival the London Knights. Tyler Parsons stonewalled the Otters in Game 1 stopping all 46 shots thrown his way. The Knights skated off with a 2-0 win in Game 1. If the Knights took Game 2 as well, the Otters season would be in serious jeopardy far short of their goal of winning it all.
The Otters needed a hero. Friday night in Erie, Darren Raddysh did the honors.
— OntarioHockeyLeague (@OHLHockey) April 8, 2017
Darren Raddysh’s Heroics
Raddysh netted a hat trick and added an assist in the Otters 5-1 win in Game 2. He was the best player on the ice. His play to open the scoring was a thing of beauty.
Raddysh skated down the right-wing with the puck looking to make a play. He split a pair of Knights defenders as he went behind the net. He made a wrap-around attempt that was initially stopped. He stayed with the play and eventually powered it home. That goal took a huge weight off of the Otters. Parsons was human after all.
Raddysh then doubled the Otters lead thanks to keeping things simple. From center point, he flipped a shot on net that beat a screened Parsons. The Otters missed many chances in Game 1 by missing the net. They made it a point to get the puck on net. Raddysh said as much after the game.
“We wanted to get a couple more guys in front of the net.”, Raddysh said. “On that first one I just tried to drive the net there to get the puck on net.”
— Geoffrey Brandow (@GeoffreyBrandow) April 8, 2017
Raddysh completed his hat trick in the third period thanks to a bit of an unusual move by the Knights. With over seven minutes left in the game down 4-1, the Knights pulled Parsons. They were on a power play which gave them a 6-on-4 advantage. They couldn’t convert. Finally after many icing calls, Raddysh from center ice buried the puck and the Knights to do with it.
Raddysh now has six goals this postseason. He trails only Owen Sound’s Petrus Palmu in goals and leads all defensemen in goals. Given what all he does for the team, one could argue that he is the MVP of the Otters. A top-four defenseman with over 80 points in the regular season who runs the point on the power play deserves that kind of attention. Alex DeBrincat scored 65 goals and is rightfully the Otters representative for the Red Tilson. But who consistently made sure the puck got to the skilled forwards? That was Raddysh.
In case you hadn’t heard, he is a free agent. Interest in him has picked up in recent weeks. Right-handed offensive defensemen aren’t available too often. It’s only a matter of time before someone scoops him up.
One thing that is getting plenty of attention is the officiating. If there’s been an issue in this series after two games, it’s the lack of consistency in calls. The Otters were furious after their Game 1 loss. Coach Kris Knoblauch told the media that he couldn’t share his opinions on the matter because “those would be costly opinions.” A delayed penalty on a questionable call in Game 1 led to London’s opening goal. Then the Otters score a goal and it gets immediately waved off. The Otters felt the calls were very one-sided.
Game 2 improved somewhat, but the lack of consistency was still there. Clear calls that should have been made weren’t. This led to some make-up calls soon afterwards. Hopefully this series isn’t decided by the officials. This series is too good to allow bad or missed calls decide it. We’ll continue to closely monitor this situation.
The London/Erie Rivalry
London/Erie never disappoints. This rivalry is among the best in the OHL, if not the best. It’s two good teams slugging it out over a long series. Everything is dialed up an extra notch whether it comes to the hitting or the chirping. The fans hate each other. This is everything you want to see in a rivalry.
They also have recent playoff history fueling this rivalry. The Otters knocked Max Domi, Mitch Marner and Parsons out of the playoffs in 2014-15. The following season, Marner and Parsons got their revenge by completing a dominating sweep of the Otters on route to winning the Memorial Cup. There’s no love lost ever between these two teams. The OHL could use more rivalries like this one.
Game 3 goes Tuesday in London. The best of this series is still yet to come.