Guelph, Ontario – The Erie Otters find themselves trailing in a playoff series for the first time this postseason as they dropped game one of the Western Conference Final to the Guelph Storm 5-4.
The opening game of the Western Conference Final saw five lead changes and was tied four times. Erie saw three one goal leads disappear over the course of the game.
Erie opened the game firing the first seven shots on goal, pushing the Storm on their heels. The Otters were awarded the first power play of the game midway through. Dane Fox found an open Connor Brown at the near circle. Brown made his move to the goal then wired the puck over the far shoulder of Justin Nichols to hand the Otters a 1-0 lead. The lead wouldn’t last long as Jason Dickinson would answer for the Storm 1:41 later. The game entered the break tied at one.
Tyler Bertuzzi would give Guelph their first lead of the series 1:32 into the second period, beating Devin Williams with a blast entering the Otters zone. Erie gathered themselves midway through the second period and scored two goals 29 seconds apart. Brendan Gaunce found a soft spot in the slot and waited as Connor McDavid stole a puck away. McDavid put the puck on Gaunce’s tape, as he snapped the puck over the glove of Nichols. Shortly after, Andre Burakovsky carried a puck to slot and let a shot loose towards the Guelph net. Dylan Strome redirected the puck to fool Nichols and hand the Otters a 3-2 lead. Kerby Rychel would tie the game with under five minutes to play in the second, when he finished off a three-on-two rush on a pass from Zack Mitchell.
With the game tied at three, the teams entered the third period looking for a winner. Andre Burakovsky thought to have put the Otters up for good when he ripped home his ninth of the playoffs early in the period. The Storm struck again just 25 seconds later on Tyler Bertuzzi’s second of the night to tie the game at four. Three minutes later Ryan Horvat would tip home a Phil Baltisberger point shot to put the Storm up for good 5-4.
The loss is Erie’s first in regulation in their last 17 games, dating back to the regular season. It is also the Otters first loss in a game one this post season. The Otters will look to tie the Western Conference Final in game two Friday night at 7:30 p.m. at the Sleeman Centre in Guelph.
Locastro-Bonini Insurance Three Stars
- Tyler Bertuzzi
- Jason Dickinson
- Andre Burakovsky