The renovations at Erie Insurance Arena aren’t finished yet. But the Erie Otters already feel at home.
Connor McDavid scored twice, and Oscar Dansk made 34 saves, in their home debut to lead the Otters to a 5-1 win in front of a home-opening crowd of 3,474 fans Friday night. Stephen Harper had a goal and assist, while Connor Brown and J.P. Labardo added two assists apiece.
The Otters (2-3-1-0) snapped a two-game losing streak. Brampton fell to 2-3-0-1.
The Otters were excited to finally play at home after spending the first five games on the road. Then in a heartwarming and emotional pregame ceremony, the club honored Anna Ftorek, the youngest daughter of Robbie Ftorek and Wendy Ftorek who died July 21 at the age of 23, by unveiling a banner in her memory and dedicating the season to her. The players also exchanged hugs with the Ftorek family.
The Otters used that spark to gain momentum early, and then took a 1-0 lead on a goal from an unlikely source – Johnny McGuire. The physical winger scored his first goal of the season – and his fourth in 64 career OHL games – 8:48 into the opening period.
The Otters’ offense sputtered after that. The defense, which allowed 40 or more shots in every game of last weekend’s three-game trip to Peterborough, Kingston and Ottawa, surrendered 13 shots on goal in the period to a Battalion club averaging two goals per game.
Yet rookie goaltender Dansk stopped them all. He stood strong in the second perod as well with 14 more saves. Meanwhile, No. 1 pick McDavid scored in his home debut – his second goal and seventh point of the season – to hand the Otters a 2-0 lead at the 6:06 mark. The rookie center redirected Brown’s cross-ice pass past goaltender Jake Smith before barreling into the net.
Brampton began the third on the power play, as Brown took a holding penalty as time expired in the second. But the Otters capitalized instead, with Luke Cairns scoring short-handed from in close on an assist from J.P. Labardo 10 seconds into the period.
Blake Clarke‘s wrist shot from in front – his second goal of the season – ended Dansk’s bid for his first OHL shutout 7:30 into the third period. But the Otters responded with 4:51 left, as Harper slipped past the Battalion’s normally staunch defense for his third goal of the season and a 4-1 Otters’ lead. Harper tied Brown for the team lead in goals. McDavid tied them in goals two minutes later.
McDavid posted his first career two-goal game, on assists from Brown and Labardo, to open a four-goal advantage at 5-1.
- Victor Fernandes