Kitchener, Ontario – Eerie. That would be the word to describe the moments before puck drop at “The Aud” in Kitchener on a January Friday night. The usually electric Auditorium was host to the Erie Otters, the Kitchener Rangers, members of the media, and nobody else. Due to the recent mandates implemented province-wide by the Ontario Government, no fans were allowed in attendance for the first meeting of the season for the Midwest Division foes. Erie, ‘fresh’ off back-to-back wins for the first time in the 2021-22 season, entered the game as only the team’s third game in nearly a month, seeing a number of games postponed due to COVID protocols in the Ontario Hockey League. Regardless of circumstances, the Otters would look for their first win of 2022, and in the Midwest Division this season.
The first five shots of the game would belong to the Otters, as the team would come out swinging in the offensive end. Despite the initial onslaught, the Rangers would hold off and come back to spend some time on either side of the ice. Erie would collect a total of 14 shots in the opening 20 minutes, but find themselves fruitless on their power play opportunity. The first period would come to an end with nothing to show on the scoresheet in the goals column, and the Otters leading in shots 14-4.
Second Period action would be when the scoring would finally come, as the Rangers found the first two goals of the game. Justin Nolet (4) would get one on the power play just over five minutes in, and leading-scorer Francesco Pinelli (12) would follow up just under three minutes later. Despite a 24-shot period, the Otters would be held off the board for nearly 19 minutes in the frame. On their fourth power play of the night, a Noah Sedore shot would be tipped in by Captain Brendan Sellan (8), and make it a 2-1 game after 40. Erie would go into the third leading in shots 38-14.
Tense would be the word to describe the third period, as the Rangers would do what was necessary to try and hold their fragile 2-1 lead. They would attempt to accomplish this with a 15-10 shots advantage in the period, but the Otters would get aggressive on the forecheck halfway through the frame, and see Elias Cohen (9) score his team-leading 25th point with a point-blank shot. Erie would overcome their 2-0 deficit and knot things up. With a back-and-forth finish the frame, the two Midwest Division foes would prove that 60 minutes wouldn’t be enough, as they’d both take a point and head to overtime.
Five minutes of overtime would not be enough to decide a winner, as both teams traded opportunities down the ice, but were unable to beat the goaltenders on either side. Without a proper decision made in OT, the Otters would head to the shootout for the second time this season, looking for their first win in the skills competition. Kitchener would be up first, and after being unsuccessful on the opening shot, the Otters would be able to take control. They would do just that, with Noah Sedore scoring the first shootout goal of the season for Erie, and making it 1-0. In the second round, Kitchener would find the net in the shootout from Carson Rehkopf, and make it 1-1 into the final scheduled round after an Erie miss. With neither team being able to convert in the third or fourth round, the fifth round would see Carey Terrance with the opportunity to win it. Sneaking one on the shortside, Terrance would net his second game-winning goal of the season, and second in three games with the shootout game-winner. Erie would win the shootout 2-1, and the game 3-2.
With the win, Erie wins its first shootout and Midwest Division game of the season, and its third-straight game overall. Erie stays in Kitchener for the weekend, preparing for a rare Saturday afternoon tilt against the Blue Shirts, with the puck dropping at 4 P.M. from The Aud.