Otters Take Game One from Greyhounds
Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario – The Erie Otters opened their Western Conference Semifinal with the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds Wednesday night at the Essar Centre and took game one by the score of 3-1.
The Otters hit the ground running to start the game with a tone setting shift from Brendan Gaunce, Andre Burakovsky, and Joel Wigle. The energy built for Erie off of a big hit from Wigle in the neutral zone. The opening shift led to a few chances with Connor Brown getting stopped in tight by Hounds net minder Matt Murray. The Otters continued to push in the early going, setting up another chance. Troy Donnay kept a puck in at the blue line, dumping the puck behind the net for Dylan Strome. Strome found Michael Curtis alone at the left wing faceoff circle, who buried the opening goal over Murray’s glove hand.
Erie looked to take a lead into the first intermission when they found themselves on the power play late in the period. It was the Greyhounds who had the best chance in the final minutes of the period. Patrick Watling picked the pocket of Travis Dermott at the point and sped off for a breakaway. Watling tried to tuck the puck in on the backhand, but Otters goaltender Devin Williams shut the door, preserving Erie’s 1-0 lead into the first intermission.
Sault Ste. Marie looked to rebound in the second period. The Hounds doubled Erie in shots in the second period, with a 14-7 mark. It was the Otters who capitalized on their chances though. Spencer Abraham’s cross ice pass found Brendan Gaunce at the offensive blue line. Gaunce found Dylan Strome entering the zone coming off the bench as part of a change. Strome, who sped behind the Greyhound defenders, took the pass and went in on goal alone. Strome buried his first OHL playoff goal and gave Erie a 2-0 lead.
The Otters looked to close out the opening game as they looked to add insurance late in the third. Connor Brown was boarded in the offensive zone, drawing a penalty. During the delayed call, Erie continued their fore check and Brendan Gaunce found Brown in the slot. Brown toe dragged around a defender and ripped a laser that beat Murray giving the Otters a 3-0 lead. Kyle Jenkins would beat Williams 16 seconds later on a slap shot from the high slot. Sault Ste. Marie would pull their goaltender late, but the Otters stymied the comeback attempt to take game one 3-1.
Devin Williams stopped 26 shots in the win. Williams has won every playoff game he’s started in this postseason. Dylan Strome recorded a two point night, giving him seven points in the postseason to lead all rookie scorers. Brendan Gaunce recorded two assists on the night, boosting his playoff point total to ten and tied for second in the league.
The Otters will take a one game to none lead into game two of their Western Conference Semifinal Friday night from the Essar Centre in Sault Ste. Marie.
Locastro-Bonini Insurance Three Stars
1. Devin Williams – Erie Otters
2. Dylan Strome – Erie Otters
3. Jared McCann – Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds