Among the many things on the ice he has proven this season, Oscar Dansk proved he is also a quick healer off the ice.
A night after missing a scheduled start in Kitchener because of an illness, Dansk returned to the ice Saturday and once again stole the show.
The Columbus Blue Jackets prospect stopped 47-of-49 shots through regulation and overtime and then three more in a shootout to earn the Otters a much-needed 3-2 shootout victory over the Guelph Storm in front of 3,126 at Erie Insurance Arena.
“Oscar played great yet again,” said Stephen Harper, whose goal in the fourth round of the shootout proved to be the game winner after Guelph’s Tanner Richard whiffed on his attempt. “Every win he’s gotten this year, he’s stood on his head, so he’s been good for us.”
The win, in front of the second largest crowd of the season, snapped a two-game losing streak and gave the team an important two points heading into Thursday’s annual Thanksgiving night game against Belleville. That tilt is scheduled for 7:00 p.m.
The Otters, despite being hit with the flu bug, appeared healthier than ever in the first period, playing what coach Robbie Ftorek called the most physical period his team has played this season. The hard hits were headlined by, who else, Johnny McGuire and Connor Crisp, which set the tone early one for a chippy game throughout.
The Otters didn’t just hit anything that moved, they also got the game’s first goal as J.P. Labardo, who began his Ontario Hockey League career in Guelph, scored a power-play goal past Garret Sparks on yet another display of tic-tac-toe passing between himself, Connor Brown and Connor McDavid. Labardo’s goal 8:03 into the first was the lone goal of the period.
Dansk was busy as usual; stopping all 18 shots he faced and once again played strong in the second before allowing Robby Fabbri’s fifth goal of the season to sneak past him at the 18:35 mark of the second for tie the game at one.
But despite the Storm outshooting the Otters 34-18 through two periods, it was in fact the guys in front of Dansk that allowed the goalie to be successful.
Aside from Fabbri’s marker, the defense limited Guelph to mainly outside shots that weren’t very threatening.
The best player on either blue line was Adam Pelech, who continuously shut down the Storm’s top line and played physical every time a defender skated towards him. It’s just another night for the New York Islanders prospect in Ftorek’s mind.
“Pelly plays the same way every night,” Ftorek said. “He plays against everybody’s big guys and just comes to work and battles night in and night out.”
The Otters, however, still had some work to do. And the go-ahead goal came from another defenseman, Jimmy McDowell, as he ripped a shot from the left circle that sailed past Sparks to put the Otters ahead 2-1 6:08 into the third period.
However, one of the rare defensive zone mistakes on Saturday allowed Guelph to tie the game.
Anthony Cortellessa’s clearing attempt was intercepted and eventually deposited into the back of Dansk’s net by Brock McGinn to knot the game at two in the late stages of the stanza.
The teams would each earn a point and head to overtime, where the extra session’s best opportunity came when Brown took an outlet pass from McDowell that sprung the captain loose and went one-on-one with Sparks with less than 30 seconds left.
Brown deked to his right before pulling the puck back to his left but was stopped by a sprawling Sparks. The Guelph goalie stopped all seven shots he faced in OT and 27-of-29 shots on the night.
In overtime, Labardo and McGinn traded goals in the first round before Dansk stopped the next three shooters.
Sandwiched in between those three saves was Harper’s goal, in which he slid the puck between the legs of Sparks for the eventual game winner.
Even with a great team win, this night belonged to Dansk, who once again carried the team to victory.
“Those are the times where you just have to win,” Dansk said. “It was really good to finish up the weekend strong. Now, we have to keep working on this until next week.”