THREE STARS: DAYLIGHT SCORING TIME IN THE SPRING
(by Mario Bruni; Photo: James ‘Jeep’ DiCioccio / Erie Otters)
Erie, Pennsylvania – The end of play against American teams saw the Erie Otters battle Flint and Saginaw for three games in four days.
The Otters would start the week in Flint on Wednesday night, where they would fall to the Firebirds 4-1. On Thursday, the result would be duplicated for the Otters in a 4-1 loss at Saginaw. This loss would mathematically and officially eliminate the Otters from playoff contention. Erie would play one more game on the week at home against Flint where the Otters would fall 7-4.
With only six games remaining, let’s look back at the players who made an impact in last week’s three.
THIRD STAR – OWAIN JOHNSTON
The big-body defenseman has flourished in his second season on the blue line, with this past week even bringing a pair of points to the Sophomore. Owain Johnston’s role this week took on one of a helping stick, recording two assists in the last two games. It would be Johnston feeding Sam Alfano for assists in both Thursday’s game at Saginaw and home on Saturday night against Flint.
The defenseman has eight points (1G+7A) this season, and will be a major contributor to the team’s backend success in the future.
SECOND STAR – ALEX MESSIER
Necessity is the mother of invention, and with depth players needing to step up from injuries, Alex Messier has showed up big time.
After netting the game-winner last Saturday (3/4) against Peterborough, Messier would once again take on the goal-scoring role on Saturday against Flint. With Erie down 4-2, #21 would start the two-goals-in-30-seconds scoring for Erie, finding the puck in the mid slot from Dylan Edwards, grabbing his own rebound, and putting it home for his third career goal.
When opportunity knocks, answer. Messier has taken full advantage of the time he is getting on the ice towards the end of this season, and adjusted well to head coach Stan Butler’s coaching style. As the Otters look toward next season, Messier’s ability as a big-bodied depth forward could make him a valuable asset for the team in navy and gold.
FIRST STAR – SAM ALFANO
Offensive success? We’re AlFano’s of that! Puns aside, there’s no jokes when it comes to the recent results of first-year Otter Sam Alfano.
“The Big Rig” has been impressive as of late, flourishing under the aggressive, workhorse coaching style of head coach Stan Butler. Since the last week of February, Alfano has scored seven goals in the last eight games. This week, #33 scored four goals in the three games played – bringing his season total to 17.
Alfano would score the lone goals in both road games against Flint and Saginaw (on the power play). On Saturday, it would be the usual suspect of Sam who would shine the brightest, getting the scoring going for Erie to make it a 1-1 game. Colby Saganiuk and Owain Johnston would assist on this first goal for Alfano. Halfway into the game, with Erie down a goal on a delayed power play, Sam Alfano would have a dribbler of a puck juuuuuust get past the goal line for his second of the night, and a 4-4 game. Second Star honors would be given to the Sophomore forward for his terrific game play.
The last few weeks have showcased the truly dynamic potential of big-bodied forward, and as he continues to develop, Alfano has a case to be a major player-to-watch in 2023-24.
The penultimate week of the season awaits the Erie Otters, looking forward to a home-road-home set that starts on Wednesday night. With the Niagara IceDogs in town, Erie will host Winning Wednesday – all fans in attendance will receive a free ticket to the ensuing Wednesday game if the Otters win. On Friday, Erie will take its final trip to the Paramount Fine Foods Centre in Mississauga to battle the Steelheads one last time. On Saturday, Erie will return home for First Responders Night (pres. by Plyler Entry Systems) for the CHL TV Game of the Week. All First Responders who show their badge/ID at the Erie Insurance Arena Box Office will receive a free ticket to the game – as a thank you for their service.