Erie, Pennsylvania – For the first time in 546 Days, Otters fans returned to the Erie Insurance Arena for hockey action. The last time the Otters hit the ice, the Saginaw Spirit were the opposing team, and the same held true for the afternoon preseason game on Saturday, September 4. With free tickets allotted for fans thanks to UPMC Health Plan, another step toward normality returned, as fans presided in the stands before the hockey action.
With home-ice advantage in the Erie Insurance Arena, the Otters would come out swinging on Saturday Afternoon. The first period would see Erie’s Aidan Campbell start in net, and do his job to deflect all that came his way. On the opposite side of the ice, Elias Cohen and Brendan Sellan would race toward the Saginaw defensive end, and Sellan would receive a feed on the left circle that he’d fire home just 4:04 into the contest. Sellan would start off the season-scoring for the Otters, and give the team a 1-0 advantage heading into the intermission.
The more things change, the more they stay the same, and in the case of the Erie Otters, that meant a return to form in the second period. Holding a 1-0 lead, the team would continue to stave off the ensuing Spirit attack. On the opposite side of the ice, offensive success would continue as Ryan Thompson would kick a loose puck in the defensive end to Daniel D’Amato who would race 190 feet up the ice, and put biscuit in the basket for his first goal of the preseason 11:40 into the frame. With the period’s whistle blown, the Otters held a 2-0 lead into the final period.
Third period action would back and forth in a goal-scoring affair. Roberto Mancini would put the Spirit on the board for the first time during the day early into the third period. Brendan Sellan would fire a shot from the blue line that was blocked heavily, George Alboim would put the rebound on net, and Elias Cohen would collect his second point with his first goal of the preseason. A 3-1 Otters lead wouldn’t last for long, as the Spirit would finally find their way back on the board from Dean Loukus. In a 3-2 game, the Spirit would get within striking distance as Luke McNamara would find the back of the net with no time wasted. Suddenly, the score was knotted up 3-3. With just over five minutes left, Camaryn Baber would beat Campbell to give Saginaw its first lead of the night, 4-3. With just over a minute left, Coach Hartsburg would use the Otters lone-timeout to rally a comeback. The decision would be a tremendous one, as the Otters would pull Campbell for the extra attacker, and score with :51 left from Colby Saganiuk. With less than :30 left, and momentum all on their side, the Otters would see Noah Sedore race down the ice and sneak a two-man breakaway far-post to lift the team to an unlikely come-from-behind win. Two goals in the final minute.
While the game served as a crucial live-game atmosphere for the players from both sides, the contest served more as a testament to the return of something greater – a sense of normality. When hockey and the world as we knew it halted in March of 2020, it felt as though having fans at a hockey game would never happen again. Yet, 546 days later, hockey was played, fans were in the building, and the world felt just a little more normal again. The Otters thank all the fans for being patient and ever-supportive during the last 17 months leading to today. Today is only the beginning of an unforgettable 25th Season.
The Otters return home to conclude the Preseason on Thursday, September 16 vs. Flint and Saturday, September 18 vs. Saginaw. Both games drop the puck at 7:00 P.M. with admission totally free thanks to UPMC Health Plan.