After looking to be in control of the game early, the Otters were forced to go the distance with the Flint Firebirds. Behind the stellar play of goaltender Devin Williams, Erie was able to prevail in a 3-2 shootout victory in its home opener at Erie Insurance Arena in front of over 4000 fans.
Erie recognized its 2015 OHL Midwest Division and Western Conference Championships with the raising of two new banners in Erie Insurance Arena before the game. Once the puck dropped, the Otters would get right to business. Flint defenseman Alex Peters was sent to the penalty box for a check from behind just 14 seconds in. Shaun Bily would make the power play count for Erie, burying his first of the season just moments later and putting the Otters up 1-0. Erie continued to put the pressure on Alex Bowman and the Firebirds in the first period by controlling much of the action in the offensive zone and outshooting the Firebirds 18-7 in the frame. Christian Girhiny would cash in on the final shot of the period for his first of the season, putting in a rebound off a Darren Raddysh blast. The Otters led 2-0 at the break.
The Firebirds would gain some momentum back in the second period with their puck possession. Flint drew two separate penalties to Erie’s Riley MacRae and Jordan Sambrook, but they were unable to convert the man-advantage both times. Devin Williams stopped a couple of great Flint scoring chances late in the period to keep Erie’s lead in check. The Firebirds would finally get one past Williams with 2:51 left in the second when Zack Pittman scored his first of the season to cut Erie’s lead in half before the second intermission.
Erie would begin the third on a power play immediately followed by another chance on the man-advantage but the Otters were unable to convert both opportunities. The defensive work by the Firebirds kept them in the game and led to them tying up the game with 13:37 left. Will Bitten knotted up the score at two apiece with his second of the year. Play would go back and forth throughout the third period with both teams getting their share of scoring chances. Both goaltenders stood tall in the period and the game would go to a 3-on-3 OT.
The open ice created multiple scoring chances for both teams. Williams stopped six shots in the frame, including a breakaway opportunity for Flint. Bowman was equally impressive, stopping all five of Erie’s shots. Next up was the shootout.
Flint sent out to Matyas Kantar face Williams first, but he was unable to convert. Alex DeBrincat was the first shooter for Erie and Bowman stopped his wrist shot. Williams stoned Francesco Vilardi next to set up Nick Betz’s chance. Betz went to the back hand and got it past Bowman, setting up the do-or-die attempt for Flint. Connor Chatman saw his attempt deflected high by Williams and it fell harmlessly behind the net, giving the Otters the shootout victory. Williams finished with 30 saves on the night, while his counterpart Bowman stopped 44 Otters’ shots.
The Otters will return to action Friday, October 9 at home taking on the Niagara Ice Dogs. The game will begin at 7 p.m.
The Iron Worker’s Union No. 3 Ironmen of the Game:
1) Devin Williams – 30 Saves
2) Alex Bowman – 44 saves
3) Nick Betz – GW SO goal