But the Otters finally scored – two late goals, actually – to reward Williams for the game of his life.
The rookie goaltender stopped a career-high 61-of-62 shots in Erie’s 2-1 comeback win against the Eastern Conference-leading Niagara IceDogs in front of 2,121 at Tullio Arena Wednesday night.
“What can you say? The kid was amazing,” said Peter Sidorkiewicz, Otters assistant/goaltending coach.
For the game’s first 55 minutes, it appeared the Otters’ struggling offense would spoil one of the best performances in franchise history. The Otters (8-40-3-2) rarely tested former teammate Chris Festarini (16 saves).
“The guys found a way to put one in,” Sidorkiewicz, referring to rookie Connor Brown’s rebound on the power play, which trickled past Festarini to tie the score at 1 with 5 minutes, 55 seconds left in the game.
Then during the Otters’ sixth and final power play of the night, Brown’s pass found rookie Sondre Olden to the right of Festarini. The Otters’ 18th and final shot on goal of the game found the back of the net.
The goal with 43.6 seconds left was all Williams needed to finish off the IceDogs (35-16-0-3).
Williams’ effort also provides club officials with a difficult decision to make. The coaching staff has spoken with Sherry Bassin, managing partner and general manager, about possibly signing Williams to a player card. That would allow him to play with the team full time for the rest of the season.
Williams, a fifth-round pick in the 2011 OHL Priority Selection, has spent more half of the season with the Otters as a floating affiliate. That limits his game total to 10 games until his original team, the Metro Jets from Waterford, Mich., completes their season in the North American Tier III Hockey League.
He has played six games. The Otters have 15 games left in the season. Sidorkiewicz said club officials still want to play overager Ramis Sadikov in games in hopes of helping him earn a professional contract. But Sidorkiewicz said they also would like to play Williams more.
Williams stopped all 21 shots he faced in the first period. He stopped 23-of-24 in the second, with only Freddie Hamilton’s shot from in close slipping through with 5:02 left in the period. Williams turned aside all 17 shots in the third, which gave the Otters the opportunity they needed to rally and snap a four-game losing streak.
Otters 2, IceDogs 1
Niagara 0 1 0 — 1
Erie 0 0 2 — 2
1st Period — None. Penalties — Wigle (N) hooking, :38; Olden (E) slashing, 1:35; McGuire (E) 4-min. checking from behind, 12:33; Beukeboom (N) instigating, 12:33; McGuire (E) 5-min. fighting, 12:33; Beukeboom (N) 5-min. fighting, 12:33; Beukeboom (N) 10-min. misconduct, 12:33; Mercer (N) high sticking,. 15:51.
2nd Period — 1. Niagara, Freddie Hamilton 25 (Strome, D. Hamilton), 14:58 (pp). Penalties — Evans (E) tripping, 4:03; Doan (N) elbowing, 7:01; Maaskant (E) delay of game, 14:45.
3rd Period — 2. Erie, Connor Brown 19 (Fox, Cairns), 14:05 (pp). 3. Erie, Sondre Olden 7 (Brown, Cairns), 19:16 (pp). Penalties — Kuhnhackl (N) slashing, 7:03; Shipley (N) slashing, 12:31; Graham (N) checking from behind, 18:36.
Shots on goal — Niagara, 21-24-17—62; Erie, 5-7-6—18.
Goaltenders — Niagara, Chris Festarini 11-10-0-0 (18 shots, 16 saves); Erie, Devin Williams 2-2-0-1 (62 shots, 61 saves).
Power plays — Niagara (1-4), Erie (2-6).
Referees — T.J. Foster, Craig Spada. Linesmen — R.J. King, Jesse Wilmot.
Attendance — 2,121.
* Devin Williams, Otters (career-high 61 saves) ** Sondre Olden, Otters (GW goal) *** Luke Cairns, Otters (2 assists)