The Erie Otters exploded offensively against London in their regular-season finale.
Anthony Luciani led the way in Erie’s regular-season finale with his third OHL hat trick in an 8-3 win against London, played in front of 5,304 at Tullio Arena Saturday night.
Now the Otters (33-28-5-2) will wait until today to learn their opponent in the Western Conference quarterfinals. The Otters (73 points) are tied for seventh with Saginaw, one behind sixth-place Guelph. But the Spirit, which beat Kitchener 3-0 Saturday, have a game in hand – Sunday’s 2 p.m. game at Plymouth.
The Otters need a Spirit loss in regulation to claim the seventh seed and face London, because Erie holds the league’s second tiebreaker over the Spirit – head-to-head record. The Otters swept the four-game season series with the Spirit. The first tiebreaker – most wins – is currently tied at 33 apiece.
If Saginaw earns a point today, the Otters fall to eighth and earn a first-round matchup with Windsor. The Otters cannot finish sixth because of Guelph’s 3-0 win against Owen Sound Saturday. That means the Otters won’t face Midwest Division rival Kitchener in the opening round.
The Otters jumped out to a 2-0 lead on the Knights (49-16-1-2), which left leading scorer Nazem Kadri and high-scoring defenseman Steven Tarasuk in London to rest for the start of the playoffs.
Luciani and Brady Austin scored 18 seconds apart for the Otters in the opening two minutes. London responded with two goals in less than 2 minutes midway through the period. But the Knights’ offense, fell silent after that. Meanwhile, the Otters were simply warming up.
The Otters scored the game’s next six goals, including five on 11 shots in the second period.
After Luciani’s second goal capped the scoring in the first, Mitch Gaulton’s goal 3:10 into the second sparked the five-goal onslaught. Luciani completed his third career hat trick – all this season – a minute after Gaulton’s goal. Then Zack Torquato (his career-high 31st of the season), Shawn Szydlowski and David Broll scored in less than three minutes late in the period to build the Otters’ commanding 8-2 lead.
London finally snapped Erie’s goal-scoring streak on Michael MacDonald’s second goal of the night and 25th of the season at the 6:07 mark of the third. But the Otters kept London from earning their 50th win of the season. Luciani, Szydlowski (goal, two assists), Gaulton (goal, two assists) and Mike Cazzola (three assists) had three points apiece for the Otters.
– Victor Fernandes
OHL playoff update
The Otters are tied for seventh in the Western Conference:
(games through Saturday)
No. Team GL Record Pts.
6. x-Guelph 0 35-29-3-1 74
7. x-Saginaw 1 33-27-4-3 73
8. x-Erie 0 33-28-5-2 73
GL – games left; x-clinched playoff berth
* Saginaw plays in Plymouth Sunday at 2 p.m.
Note: Top eight teams in each conference qualify for the playoffs.