The Otters have outscored opponents 51-20 during their 7-1 surge this month, including eight goals in an 8-3 win against Guelph in front of 4,919 at Tullio Arena Saturday night.
The Otters (32-24-1-1) tied a season high with their fifth straight win and equaled a franchise record with their eighth consecutive home win. Mike Cazzola (goal, two assists) and Greg McKegg (three assists) led the Otters’ attack.
Brett Appio and Shawn Szydlowski scored two goals apiece. Anthony Luciani (two assists), Brett Thompson (goal, assist) and Phil Varone (goal, assist) had two points apiece.
Before the game, the Otters added another piece to their potent offense. Andrew Yogan, who underwent shoulder surgery in September, made his season debut on Saturday. Coach Robbie Ftorek inserted him onto the fourth line alongside rookies Luke Cairns and Chris Marchese.
“Yogy’s got to get in and play, Ftorek said. “Yogy’s got only so many games before we get into the playoffs.”
Then at the 6:30 mark of the opening period, Cazzola scored his 15th goal of the season off assists from McKegg and Brady Austin to hand the Otters an early 1-0 lead. Then moments after Appio stepped out of the penalty box, he turned a 2-on-1 rush into a 2-0 Otters’ lead.
Appio’s shot squeezed through Storm goaltender Garret Sparks’ pads and trickled into the net with 6:17 left in the period. Varone and Thompson assisted on the goal to extend their point streaks to 16 games and eight games, respectively. The Storm (27-24-4-1) sliced Erie’s lead in half 5:19 into the second. Tim Campbell fired a shot past Otters goaltender Ramis Sadikov on the power play.
But Thompson scored his 40th goal of the season, this one on the power play, to regain Erie’s two-goal lead and extend his goal streak to eight games. Thompson stands one shy of equaling the franchise record of nine, set by Brad Boyes from Nov. 4-25, 2000.
The Otters received a brief scare late in the period. Sadikov was shaken up from a collision with a Storm player in the crease. While head athletic trainer David Stickney tended to Sadikov, rookie backup Chris Festarini appeared to begin preparing his helmet.
But Sadikov remained in the game. Moments later, Varone handed the Otters a 4-1 lead with 1:19 left in the period on assists from Luciani and David Shields. Festarini replaced Sadikov to start the third for precautionary reasons. But Sadikov’s sore leg wasn’t considered serious, said Sherry Bassin, Otters managing partner and general manager.
The Otters quickly handed Festarini a larger cushion, as they scored three times in a 3:24 span early in the period. Szydlowski scored twice, once on the power play, and Brett Cook scored for a 7-1 Otters’ lead.
Appio capped his two-goal outing with 5:10 left. Yogan had no points and a minus-2 rating.
- Victor Fernandes
Otters’ magic number – 7
Number of combined points from wins and Sarnia losses needed to clinch a playoff spot
Otters 8, Storm 3
Guelph 0 1 2 — 3
Erie 2 2 4 — 8
1st Period — 1. Erie, Mike Cazzola 15 (McKegg, Austin), 6:30. 2. Erie, Brett Appio 10 (Varone, Thompson), 13:43. Penalties — Appio (E) holding, 11:34; Lofquist (G) delay of game, 18:34.
2nd Period — 3. Guelph, Tim Campbell 2 (Holland, Erlich), 5:19 (pp). 4. Erie, Brett Thompson 40 (Luciani, Holden), 10:10 (pp). 5. Erie, Phil Varone 28 (Luciani, Shields), 18:51. Penalties — Cook (E) holding, 3:54; Gaskin (G) tripping, 9:22; Varone (E) hooking, 12:11; Szydlowski (E) roughing, 15:15; Van Laren (G) cross checking, 19:45.
3rd Period — 6. Erie, Shawn Szydlowski 34 (Cazzola, McKegg), 2:01. 7. Erie, Brett Cook 7 (McKegg), 3:38. 8. Erie, Szydlowski 35 (Cazzola, Hostetter), 5:25 (pp). 9. Erie, Appio 11 (unassisted), 14:50. 10. Guelph, Brock McGinn 8 (Menard, Kosmachuk), 16:58. 11. Guelph, Francis Menard 10 (Kosmachuk, McGinn), 18:53. Penalties — Finn (G) slashing, 4:47; Austin (E) tripping, 6:40.
Shots on goal — Guelph, 13-13-10—36; Erie, 13-12-12—37.
Goaltenders — Guelph, Garret Sparks 8-4-0-0 (25 shots, 21 saves), Brandon Foote (12 shots, 8 saves); Erie, Ramis Sadikov 31-17-1-1 (26 shots, 25 saves), Chris Festarini (10 shots, 8 saves).
Power plays — Guelph (1-5), Erie (2-4).
Referees — Craig Spada, Joe Park. Linesmen — Fraser McIntire, Jesse Wilmot.
Attendance — 4,919.
* Brett Appio, Otters (2 goals) ** Shawn Szydlowski, Otters (2 goals) *** David Shields, Otters (assist)