This group of Erie Otters (2-3-1-1) may be young, but on Saturday they showed they have a lot of fight in them a year removed from the worst season in franchise history.
The Otters battled back from a two-goal deficit to earn a point but eventually fell to the rival London Knights, 4-3, after a nine-round shootout in front of 2,667 at Erie Insurance Arena.
Kyle Platzer, the 18th shooter in the shootout, beat Erie goalie Oscar Dansk between the legs for the Knights’ second straight win. Platzer was the only skater to score in the shootout, the longest in Erie’s history.
Erie ended its opening weekend in its new home earning three out of a possible four points.
“It was a great hockey game,” said head coach Robbie Ftorek. “Unfortunately we didn’t get the two points. But we got one (tonight), and three over the weekend and that’s pretty good.”
A night after Dansk stole the show with a 34-save performance in a 5-1 win over Brampton, it was another goaltender’s time to shine.
London’s Kevin Bailie settled down after Connor McDavid scored his fourth goal of the season 1:55 into the game and became a thorn in the Otters’ side. McDavid blew past Pittsburgh Penguins prospect Scott Harrington and stuffed the puck around the right pad of Bailie to finish off a highlight reel goal.
While the Otters kept the pressure up, the Knights (4-2-0-0) made the most of their opportunities to storm back and put the home team’s back against the wall.
Max Domi, the son of former NHL enforcer Tie Domi, scored at the 6:23 mark of the first to begin a stretch where the Knights scored three unanswered goals. Seth Griffith scored late in the first and Bo Horvat opened the second with his first goal of the season.
Like a heavyweight boxer, however, Erie would begin to fight back.
Connor Brown got the momentum going by banging home a rebound past Bailie at the side of the net to cut into London’s lead. It was the captain’s fourth goal of the season. That goal came thanks to a London penalty to Kevin Raine, a trend the Otters would continue in the third.
After Josh Anderson was whistled for a hooking infraction at the 9:12 mark, Erie wasted little time to take advantage of the situation.
Stephen Harper netted his fourth of the season 15 seconds later to knot the game at 3.
From there, the goalies took over.
Each team generated quality scoring chances in a high-paced third period, but neither Bailie nor Dansk would budge. Both had outstanding nights between the pipes as Bailie finished with 26 saves, while Dansk turned in another solid outing with 19 on 22 shots.
However, Harper appeared to score what would have been the game-winning goal as he blistered a shot past Bailie from just inside the blue line. But the linesman deemed he was offside on the play, negating the goal.
“I didn’t think I was off side,” said Harper, who earned the Third Star of the game. “I thought I was over the line with the puck on my stick.”
Nonetheless, sixty minutes of hockey resolved nothing between the two rivals. Neither did a five minute overtime, which was a bit dicey for the Otters.
With 1:32 to play in the extra session, Erie defenseman Spencer Abraham took a checking from behind penalty, assuring the Knights would end the period on a power play.
But Erie stayed poised, Dansk made key saves and the Otters escaped, setting the stage for a thrilling shootout.
Unfortunately, nine different Otters couldn’t find the back of the net.
Harper, McDavid, Brown, J.P. Labardo, Pelech, Luke Cairns, Jimmy McDowell, Connor Crisp and Hayden Hodgson were all stopped by Bailie before Platzer closed the book on an exciting game.
Despite what most would consider a solid weekend of hockey for the Otters, Harper said this team won’t accept losing, not after a season like the 2011-12 campaign.
“It (stinks), we should have gotten those two points, for sure,” he said. “We should get four points every weekend.”