March 17, 2017
The Otters traveled to Kitchener on St. Patrick’s Day for an important game against the Rangers: in a fierce battle for first in the Western Conference, the Otters needed every point possible to keep apace with Owen Sound and London; further, they needed two wins to reach their fourth-straight fifty-win season. The Otters defeated the Rangers 3-2 in overtime to hold their tenuous grasp on the top Western Conference spot.
The Otters second-ranked power play went to work early in the first period after Kitchener’s Seitz was grabbed for cross-checking; just seventeen seconds into the power play, Taylor Raddysh completed a perfect passing play by sending the puck over Kitchener goaltender Luke Opilka’s shoulder, giving Erie the 1-0 lead. Though the Otters continued to record the better offensive chances, Kitchener tied the game at 8:20 when Connor Bunnaman jumped on a loose puck and poked it through Erie goaltender Troy Timpano. Neither team would score in the final minutes of the period, and the Otters skated off for the first intermission tied with the Rangers at one.
Opilka stood strong for the Rangers in the second period, but eventually the Otters managed to regain the lead: Kyle Pettit, working low behind the net, surprised the goalie with a wraparound that just barely passed the goal line. It was the only goal scored in the second period, as Kitchener and Erie locked down defensively and goaltenders Opilka and Timpano were stalwart in the nets. The Otters entered the final period with the 2-1 lead off Taylor Raddysh and Kyle Pettit’s goals.
The third was a scoreless affair until the final minutes of the period: with the goaltender pulled, Kitchener’s Bunnaman scored his second of the game to tie the game at two. In a carbon copy of his first goal, Bunnaman crashed the Otters’ net and poked the rebound past Timpano, necessitating overtime to decide the matchup.
In overtime, the Otters cycled at the top of the offensive zone–until DeBrincat peeled off, picked up speed, and roofed the puck over Opilka to give Erie the 3-2 win.
For the Otters, Alex DeBrincat scored a goal and an assist; Darren Raddysh and Dylan Strome each notched two assists; and Troy Timpano made 13 saves on 15 shots in the victory.
Connor Bunnaman scored the Rangers’ two goals, and Luke Opilka stopped 27 saves on 30 shots in the loss.
The Otters need to win their last game to secure another fifty-win season and safely lock down the top Western Conference seed. They play the Guelph Storm in Erie on Saturday, March 18.