(This month commemorates the tenth anniversary of the Erie Otters 2002 OHL Championship. Each game of the 2002 Championship Series between the Otters and the Colts will be detailed on the tenth anniversary of each game).
The Barrie Colts now had their backs to the wall as the Erie Otters owned a 3-0 series lead in the 2002 OHL Championship Series heading into Game 4 May 8 at the Barrie Molson Centre.
A crowd of 4,229 fans attended the game in hopes of watching their Colts find a way back into the series. Early goals had been the recent trend in the series, and again the home team scored first, as Joey Tenute tallied a goal 1:59 into the game to give the Colts a lead that they would never give up.
Tenute scored again during a four-on-four at the 15:11 mark to make it 2-0. After Cory Pecker left the penalty box to start an Otters power play, he scored exactly a minute after Tenute’s second of the game to put the Otters on the board.
The Otters were outshot 15-7 after one period, and T.J. Aceti kept the Otters in the game with 13 saves as they trailed 2-1 going into the second.
The game stayed close until late in the second, when the Colts scored a pair in a span of 89 seconds. Tenute completed his hat trick with 1:51 left in the second and Nick Lees scored his second of the series with 22 seconds remaining to give the Colts a 4-1 lead going into the third.
Carlo Colaiacovo scored with a shot from the point 50 seconds into the third to put the Otters within two, but time started to run out on a possible championship clincher for Erie.
The window for a sweep closed with 7:41 left in regulation as Blaine Down scored his third goal of the series to make it 5-2, giving the Colts some life in the series. Aceti made 39 saves for the Otters, who were outshot 44-33 in the game.
The Otters would return to Erie with a 3-1 series lead, but now had an opportunity to clinch their first championship in front of a loyal and involved fan base.
“Let’s put things in perspective, if somebody said we’d be sitting here at 3-1 going home for Game 5 I’d be ecstatic right now,” Otters head coach Dave MacQueen said. “(Barrie) deserved to win tonight, and they didn’t get this far because they quit.”
Although there was disappointment that the Otters could not complete the sweep, there was a sense of excitement from the players to clinch in front of their home crowd.
“Obviously, we wanted to get the job done when we could,” Colaiacovo said. “Unfortunately, it didn’t happen tonight. We played extremely well, but (Barrie) played desperate hockey tonight. We’ve got Game 5 in front of Tullio Arena and hopefully we take advantage of it.”