(by Mario Bruni; Photo: Natalie Shaver)
Erie, Pennsylvania – A long weekend road trip out west brought about some of the best play the Erie Otters have seen in weeks, battling against three top teams in the Western Conference.
Erie started the trip off against the top team in the Western Conference, the Windsor Spitfires. The Otters would contend well with Spits, leading for a time in the second period. It would be four unanswered Windsor goals that would give the Spitfires 6-3 victory, however.
Erie would then make the trip north to Sarnia on Friday in an incredibly tight-knit battle with the upstart Sting. A 3-2 Erie lead going into the third would be relinquished as two unanswered Sarnia goals would result in a 4-3 defeat.
Erie would look to get some points in their final road game of the weekend, playing a road game in the States for the first time in the 2022-23 season. Here, Erie would start hot and not look back as the Otters defeated the Firebirds 5-2. Erie would play one of its best periods of hockey all season to open the game, grabbing a 3-0 lead through 20.
Seeds of change are being planted in the Erie Otters team, and that was clearly evident in the team’s effort and results during a very challenging road trip. Heroics were had along the way; here’s three players who got it done for Erie.
THIRD STAR: PANO FIMIS
The newest Otter, Pano Fimis, is continuing to shine and put in the work needed for the team to succeed. Fimis would be most notable in the weekend trio on special teams, showcasing his defensive and scoring abilities.
#98 would see grab two shorthanded goals on the weekend for Erie’s effective penalty kill unit. The first would come in Windsor, as Fimis was able to pick off the Spits while both teams were changing lines and find the back of the net. Goal two would be the first goal scored in Sunday’s victory in Flint. Fimis would once again intercept the puck in the Erie attacking zone and make the Firebirds pay for their mistake.
With an effective weekend on the penalty kill, and pair of notches while down a man, Fimis’ confidence and puck-playing ability continue to build momentum for Erie.
SECOND STAR: NOAH SEDORE
Hats off to Noah Sedore – literally! As the overage forward heats up offensively in the second half of the season, he closed out the final weekend road trip of January with his first-career Hat Trick; doing so as a Natural Hat Trick.
The weekend for Sedore started with assist on Thursday in Windsor, and would ultimately lead to a four-point weekend. In Flint Sunday, #74 scored his first goal off an interception in the Otters attack zone for Erie’s second goal. Goal number two would also come in the first period, as Sedore would get help from Alex Daviault and Colby Saganiuk to find him above the left circle. The 11th goal of the season – and the goal that would reward Sedore the “hatty” – would come off the stick of Owain Johnson to a streaking Sedore on a breakaway.
With aspirations of his first playoff games in his final season, look for a veteran like Sedore to play a major part in the final months of Erie’s season.
FIRST STAR: KYLE DOWNEY
For the second week in a row, Kyle Downey tops the list – earning Erie’s weekend-closing win in career-high fashion.
Downey’s weekend would start Thursday in Windsor. While it did not result in a victory, #80 saved 29 shots on the night and gave Erie an honest effort against one of the most prolific scoring teams in the Ontario Hockey League.
While the story of Sunday’s win could’ve been the hats-off performance by Noah Sedore, it would be Kyle Downey who would steal the show early and certainly often. The former 2nd Round Pick not only made a number of unreal saves, but set a new career-high in saves by stopping 41 of 43 shots faced – including stopping the first 34 consecutive shots of the game. Downey continues to provide a solid one-two punch in net with Nolan Lalonde, and showcases a brilliant addition to the Otters roster by team management.
Four-straight games on the road come to a conclusion on Thursday night as the Otters make their final trip to the Meridian Centre in St. Catharine’s, Ontario, to battle the Niagara IceDogs. After an off-day Friday, Erie returns home for UPMC Member Appreciation Weekend on Saturday (Hockey Fights Cancer Night pres. by UPMC) against Kitchener and Sunday (Sunday Family Funday) against the IceDogs.