Erie, Pennsylvania – For the first time in 32 days, the Erie Otters returned home to the Erie Insurance Arena. Heading into the Thursday night affair with fellow American foe, the Flint Firebirds, the Otters laid claim to four-straight victories, including a most recent weekend sweep of division foe, the Kitchener Rangers. Looking to exercise the Firebird demon after an 0-6 record to start the season against Flint, the Otters would hope the return of overage-Forward Brendan Hoffmann would spark the team.
For the first time in six games, the Otters scored first. Connor Lockhart required only 33 seconds to get the home team on the board with his tenth goal of the season. Noah Sedore and Christian Kyrou assisted on the scoring play when Lockhart ripped a wrist shot to the top of the net from the right circle. Zack Terry answered for the Firebirds at the 69 second mark of the game to even things up early. Riley Piercy found Terry creeping into the high slot, from where he tied the game. The Otters found themselves in penalty trouble past the halfway mark of the frame, but the penalty-killers extinguished two Firebirds powerplays, including 62 seconds of a 5-on-3. Each goaltender was put to work as the exciting first saw Erie favor shots 15-11 but the two teams remained locked after 20 minutes.
Brennan Othmann continued his individual success against Erie, notching his 23rd goal of the season 1:40 into the second period after a pair of otters collided in their own slot. The unfortunate friendly fire allowed Othmann to tip in an uncontested puck on the far side of the net. Flint would add to its lead soon after as Colson Pitre gloved down an Erie clearing attempt for himself before shoveling in a backhand chance at 3:57. The Otters closed the gap to a 3-2 score just 44 seconds later and Sedore earned his 10th point in 5 games by taking a shot toward the net that was deflected home by Colby Saganiuk. Momentum was snatched away from Erie when Tag Bertuzzi answered for Flint near the halfway mark of the game. With 3 minutes left in the period, the OHL’s Goalie of the Week, Nolan Lalonde, denied Ethan Keppen from a 1-on-0 chance in front to keep Erie in the contest. Lalonde held his post with a strong right pad on that play and the Otters escaped the middle stanza leading in shots 30-26, but down 4-2.
Any good feeling the Otters took into the intermission was dissipated early in the third period. Keppen exacted his revenge and increased the visitors’ lead 5-2. Déjà vu swept over the rink and Terry scored his second goal of the game 2 minutes and 53 seconds into the frame, but Erie began to climb back. Brendan Sellan potted a powerplay goal just after the halfway point and Erie inched closer in a then 6-3 game. Sellan followed his goal-scoring shift with a motivated effort in the offensive zone. His emotion on the ice fueled a spat between Dan D’Amato and Ethan Hay that saw each player receive 10-minute misconducts with under 7 minutes remaining. Hard hits continued from both teams down the stretch as Erie’s 4-game winning streak threatened to dissipate . Lalonde stopped another streaking Flint skater in the final five, but he was matched by Firebirds netminder Luke Cavallin at the other end of the ice. Tempers continued to flare and truncated penalties to Erie helped the penalty kill improve to 3/3 In the game. Cavallin finished the evening with 43 stops and the Otters dropped the contest 6-3 on home ice.
Erie gets a rare weekend off, as they prepare to host Saginaw on Monday, January 17 for the team’s inaugural Martin Luther King Jr. Day Game. The game will be a historic one for the CHL, as Alex Randall will have the call as the first Black Play-by-Play Voice in league history – with the game being upgraded to the CHL TV ‘Game of the Week’.