A frustrated Anthony Luciani really didn’t know what to say after the game.
The team’s play spoke volumes.
After playing great hockey the last month – nine wins in their 12 games – the Erie Otters didn’t even come close to competing Friday night, as the Brampton Battalion outplayed, outworked and outscored the Otters in a 2-1 decision in front of 3,393 fans.
“We didn’t play at all,” coach Robbie Ftorek said. “If you don’t play, you’re not going to have a chance to win at all. We were just truly out of sync tonight.”
The first 10 minutes was the only part of the game where Erie was competitive, as its play lacked flow and rhythm. Maybe it was the upcoming Christmas break that had their thoughts else where, or maybe the recent success and winning record made the squad too complacent.
“We didn’t really come out offensively at all today,” Luciani said. “We didn’t get many shots on net and that was the key part.”
Not getting shots on net is an understatement.
After a scoreless first, the Otters managed just three shots in the second period, compared to the Battalion’s 15. But even with being outplayed and goaltender Ramis Sadikov letting in the first Brampton shot of the period 23 seconds in – Stephen Throne’s fifth of the season – the Otters, as futile as they played in the middle frame, managed to tie the game.
Mac McDonnell jammed home a rebound exactly one minute after the Battalion goal, his fifth of the campaign, to attempt to put the life back into not only his team, but the fans.
But that would be it from Erie. After that goal, the team had trouble connecting on passes, generating chances and even dumping the puck in the zone.
“When we had opportunities, we didn’t bear down on them,” Luciani said. “Frustrations are running high right now.”
With being tied to start the third in a game they had no business being in, recent memory might have suggested the Otters would come out with the jump they have shown during this hot streak. The hearth they showed in Guelph when they came back from a late two-goal deficit to later win 7-6 in overtime, or the determination that followed the team to London in a 9-4 route Dec. 10.
Neither heart nor determination was to be found on this night.
The Battalion controlled the third before Barclay Goodrow slipped a loose puck past a sprawled Sadikov with 1:23 to play. Brampton has numerous opportunities, as the Otters failed to clear the puck or knock a played down in front of the crease.
That goal was the epitome of the night – one team wanted it, the other seemed to care less.
“We got what we deserved,” Ftorek said. “None of their goals were pretty; it was just one of those games.”
Despite the poor performance, only one Otter truly came to play, and that was Sadikov.
The second-year goalie stopped 33-of-35, including 26 in the final two periods. The young Russian has played 24 consecutive games between the pipes for Erie, and leads the Ontario Hockey League in minutes played.
The Otters don’t have much time to think about to tonight – and that’s probably a good thing. Eastern Conference foe Sudbury makes its lone trip to the Tullio Arena Saturday night, slated for a 7 p.m. start.
“We have one more game to end (the first half) on a positive note,” Luciani said.
The Otters play their final game before the Christmas break Saturday night, which is Guns and Hoses Night when the Otters host the Sudbury Wolves. Before the Otters game at 7:00 p.m. is a charity hockey match between local police, fire and EMS units starting at 4:00 p.m. Mention Guns and Hoses Night and receive a $10 ticket good for both games, which proceeds going back to the Children’s Advocacy Center. Tickets are available for both home games through Ticketmaster, the Civic Center Box Office or by calling 814-452-4857.