Firebirds Quell Otters, 7-4
The Erie Otters lost to the Flint Firebirds tonight at the Erie Insurance Arena by the final score of 7-4. Both teams had already been eliminated from postseason contention prior to the puck drop. Alex Gritz played in his 100th career game tonight and Kyle Maksimovich netted his 28th goal of the season, setting a career high for goals in a single season. Daniel Murphy in net collected his first OHL point with an assist on Headrick’s power play goal. Martin, Girhiny, Lodnia, and Beamish were all scratches for the Otters tonight, forcing double shifts on offense and defense alike during the matchup.
After a three-goal 1st period in Erie, the scoreboard read 2-1 in favor of the Flint Firebirds. The Otters had a plethora of chances on centering pass after centering pass, but the puck did not cross the red line until Owen Headrick scored on the power play late in the period. The Firebirds were the benefactors of some juicy rebounds that put them up by two goals by the end of the 1st. With 6:40 left in the period, Maurizio Colella fanned on his shot but the puck its way right to the tape of Ty Dellandrea who made no mistake with his shot, putting the Firebirds up 1-0. The Otters killed an Interference penalty on Gera Poddubnyi and even got some very close shorthanded chances, but the Firebirds buried another rebound 3:18 left to make it 2-0, courtesy of Hunter Holmes. The Otters got their first power play as Nikita Alexandrov sat for Tripping with 2:39 left in the 1st. Headrick picked up the gauntlet, charged into the offensive zone all alone, split the Firebirds’ D and slid the puck through Cavallin’s five hole just 19 seconds into the PP to get the Otters on the board. Goaltender Daniel Murphy picked up the assist on Headrick’s forward-esque effort for his first OHL point.
The Otters began the 2nd period only down by a single goal, but Colella dug the puck out from the boards and put it on Roberts’ stick who fired a shot past Murphy from the right circle to restore the two-goal Flint lead. At the halfway mark of the 2nd, the Otters put forth a beautiful passing sequence that resulted in the puck firmly in the back of Cavallin’s net, but the play was reviewed and determined to be Offsides, ruling it No Goal and back to 3-1. The Firebirds scored again with 5:42 left to take a commanding 4-1 lead and making it seem as though the Otters could not even buy a goal, as we watched chance after chance get denied in one way or another. With time winding down in the 2nd, Maksimovich took a page out of Headrick’s book and chipped the puck over a defenseman’s stick to himself, then ripped a shot past Cavallin, blockerside, to cut the lead to 4-2. With under a minute left in the period, Sproule made it 4-3 with a quick close-range snapshot, high glove.
The Otters seemed poised for a big 3rd period, appearing to have finally solved Cavallin late in the 2nd. Just over a minute into the final frame, Dellandrea sent Fowler careening overtop of himself with a knee-to-knee hit at center ice. Poddubnyi scored the retribution goal with six seconds left of PP time to tie the game at 4-4. That would be the Otters’ last goal of the game as McCourt scored for the Firebirds just over a minute later to retake the lead. Halfway through the period, Dellandrea set up Roberts’ second goal of the night with a behind-the-back pass on Murphy’s doorstep. Holmes scored his second of the night with 3:55 left in regulation to seal the deal at 7-4, Flint. The shots on goal throughout the entirety of the game were relatively even, with the Firebirds edging the Otters by two shots in the total tally at 31-33, which was quite telling of the story beyond the scoreboard.
The Otters play in their final road game of the 2017-18 season this Friday at 7:30pm against the London Knights.