Inside the Erie Otters Locker Room: Slow Starts & Special Teams

In this week’s edition of “Inside the Locker Room”, Otters head coach Chris Hartsburg stops by for his usual weekly update. We also had both Jamie Drysdale and Chad Yetman with us to discuss the team’s slow starts to sets and their overall thoughts on special teams. You can read last week’s Inside the Locker Room here.

The Week That Was

The Week Ahead

  • at Niagara Thursday Oct 17 at 7:00 P.M.
  • at Guelph Friday Oct 18 at 7:30 P.M.
  • vs. Mississauga Saturday Oct 19 at 7:00 P.M.

Injury Updates

  • Brendan Kischnick: Week-to-week, lower-body injury.
  • Matthew MacDougall: Day-to-day, lower-body injury. Expected to play this week.
  • Marcus Gillard: Had surgery. Expected recovery time of six months.

The news here is that Matthew MacDougall is ready to go and will play this week. That puts the Otters at 13 healthy forwards after the release of Alex Gritz. We will start to see a rotation on the bottom-six forwards of who will be the healthy scratch. Whoever performs best stays in the lineup, simple as that.

Chris Hartsburg, OHL, Erie Otters
Chris Hartsburg will have a full complement of healthy forwards with Matthew MacDougall coming back. (Photo by Terry Wilson / OHL Images.)

Coach Speak

  • Chris Hartsburg on last week’s games against Hamilton and Guelph: “Certainly we did a lot of good things I thought, in both games, but the things we did poorly showed up a lot more on Friday night. Those are the things we cleaned up in our game Saturday which allowed us to be a much cleaner team. When you only give up 10 shots at five-on-five that’s indicative of playing a much better hockey game.”
  • Hartsburg on the issue with starts: “I wish it was energy level. It’s mindlessness where we want to make the game more difficult than it needs to be. We want to for whatever reason showcase our skill in certain areas of our game which yeah, we have some skill. But we’re not a team that’s based on being a skilled team. When we get in trouble, we think we can play a certain way and we just can’t.”
  • Hartsburg on Cam Morton: “I thought he had a really good weekend. He played a real sound, solid defensive game. He was hard to play against in both games. Certainly it now gives us options back there when we do get Kischnick back. We know we don’t have to worry about not playing bodies. That’s a young defenseman who’s starting to find their way.
  • Hartsburg on the power play: “We had an 0-for weekend so that doesn’t help our percentage. I think if we can stay at 21% all year I’ll be really happy.”
  • Hartsburg on why the penalty kill has seen a dramatic change in fortune: “It’s been a little more experience with it. It’s just guys that has brought in. It was the sore point of our team last year. Give B.J (Adams) a lot of credit too. He’s worked really hard to make sure the guys know what their responsibilities are and we’ve spent a little bit more time on it in practice in the first month to make sure it is right.
Chris Hartsburg, OHL, Erie Otters
Hartsburg admits goaltending is a strength of their’s. (Photo by Terry Wilson / OHL Images)

Jamie Drysdale On Starts & Special Teams

Slow starts affect everyone on the team. They’ve been a common theme in the early part of this season. Has Drysdale pinpointed what’s going on with the starts?

“Not really. The start is something really that can get momentum going your way or against you. I think every team would like to have a good start. We haven’t had typically the best starts. We need to be more focused and ready for the game at the puck drop . If we can get that down, it’ll change a lot of outcomes. It’s a matter of figuring it out (what works for you.)”

Is Drysdale happy with the early power-play performance clicking at 21%?

“I think I’m happy with where it’s at. We can definitely be better in saying that. I like the direction we’re going in. I think even though we don’t score on it, we still get good looks, so it’s just a matter of continuing to do what works for us. I think 21 is good but we can be better.”

And what about their league-leading penalty kill?

“I think it’s just doing what you need to do. The structure hasn’t changed much. I think it’s just following through on it and staying committed and everyone being essentially one knowing what to do. One goes, everyone goes. It’s the little things we’ve been executing on and I think that makes all the difference.”

Jamie Drysdale, OHL, Erie Otters
Jamie Drysdale is happy with the direction that the Otters’ special teams is going. (Photo by Terry Wilson / OHL Images)

Chad Yetman’s Thoughts

We got a defenseman’s take on the starts about the special teams. Now what about a forward’s thoughts. Chad Yetman did just that. On starts:

“I think it’s just us not coming in and competing the way we should be. It’s almost like we play that first game and realize we need to be better in these areas and then the next night we are better in those areas. We’re not coming in with the right mindset and we need to be just a little bit better and start learning from our past mistakes.”

And on the power play: “I think we’re pretty content with our power play. We have a lot of skill and our execution has been great. Maybe we had some unluckiness this past weekend where we had a couple of good opportunities but didn’t capitalize. And that’s what you’re going to get. We haven’t had a huge sample size yet as it’s only been nine games. I’m confident in where things are going.”

OHL, Chad Yetman, Erie Otters
Chad Yetman says the team needs to be a little bit better in their starts. (Photo by Terry Wilson / OHL Images)

Final Thoughts

The Otters will encounter another three-in-three this week with games in Niagara and Guelph before coming home to play Mississauga. The Icedogs come in with a power play over 30% and the OHL’s best penalty kill on home ice so it will be a stiff test for the Otters. Then after a rematch with the Storm, the Otters welcome the Steelheads and their up-tempo game to Erie. Success this week will come down to a good start while limiting their mistakes. Winning two of the three will be considered a successful week.