Erie Otters (10-2-1-0) at London Knights (8-3-1-0)
When: Today, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Budweiser Gardens – London, Ontario
On the air: WFNN-AM/1330, www.ottershockey.com (live stream)
Up next: vs. Peterborough (Saturday, 7 p.m.)
What to watch: The Otters have won eight straight games, their longest streak since the 2010-11 club finished the regular season with eight consecutive wins. They are two wins shy of equaling the franchise record set in 1997-98 and matched in 2001-02. … The Otters (21 points) lead the OHL’s Western Conference, four points ahead of London. …The Otters lost four of six meetings with the Knights a season ago, including all three in London. The Otters have a 4-24-2 record in their past 30 trips to London in the past decade. … Linemates Connor Brown and Dane Fox had nine-game and seven-game point streaks snapped in a 5-2 home win against Plymouth on Wednesday. … Brown still leads the league with 29 points, and is tied for the lead with linemate Connor McDavid in assists with 18. Fox is in a four-way tie for first with 13 goals. … The trio leads an offense that ranks third in the league with 59 goals. … McDavid has points in eight straight games. … D Adam Pelech is tied for third among defensemen with 11 points. … RW Hayden Hodgson missed practice Thursday because he was ill. His status for tonight’s game is unknown. … The Otters went 0-for-4 on the power play against Plymouth, the first time they haven’t scored with the man advantage in a game this season. … The Otters entered Thursday sixth overall with 36 goals against and second on the penalty kill (88.5 percent). … The Otters (30.5) and Knights 29.6 are first and second on the power play. … C Bo Horvat and C Chris Tierney lead the Knights with 13 points apiece. … London has lost D Olli Maatta to the Pittsburgh Penguins. Fellow D and first-round pick Nikita Zadorov remains with the Buffalo Sabres. But the Knights are second overall with 31 goals against, including a 3-0 home win against Kitchener on Thursday.
Victor’s take: The first 10 minutes will be the key to success for the Otters. Budweiser Gardens has been a house of horrors for them in the past. They need to handle what should be a spirited Knights club in front of what should be a sellout, or at least close to one. If the Otters survive that, they will build confidence that will carry later into the game. If they don’t, the Knights will build momentum, and most likely, a comfortable lead. And let’s not forget the special teams battle. Both teams rank among the league’s top 5 on the power play and penalty kill.
Tale of the tape
Stat comparison between the Otters and Knights:
Category Otters Knights
Goals for 59 (4.5/game) 49 (4.0/game)
Goals against 36 (2.7) 31 (2.5)
Power-play pct. 30.5 29.6
Penalty-kill pct. 88.5 83.9
Penalty minutes 208 203
Home/road 4-2-1-0 (road) 6-1-0-0 (home)
Erie native Justin Mercier, 26, has signed with the Idaho Steelheads, the ECHL affiliate of the NHL’s Dallas Stars. He joins the Steelheads, which began training camp Monday, after spending the 2012-13 season playing in Germany with the Wolfsburg Grizzly Adams (2 goals, 5 points and 49 PIM) in 35 games. The Miami (Ohio) University alumnus began his professional career in the 2009-10 season, where he played 64 games for the AHL’s Lake Erie Monsters (13 goals, 10 assists, 23 points) and 9 more with the NHL’s Colorado Avalanche (1 goal, 2 points). He had 26 goals and 53 points in 156 games with the Monsters from 2010-12.
Erie native Ryan Zapolski, a Cathedral Prep alumnus and former standout goaltender for the Mercyhurst University men’s hockey team, will play for Raumann Lukko of Finland’s SM-liiga in the 2013-14 season. He signed with the club this past spring.
Zapolski, 26, turned a run to the ECHL’s most valuable player award with the South Carolina Stingrays a season ago into a chance to play overseas. He posted a 27-11-2 record and a league-best 1.64 goals-against average, .942 save percentage and eight shutouts on the way to being the second goaltender in the league’s 25-year history to earn top rookie, top goaltender and MVP honors in the same season. He set the ECHL record for goals-against average, tied the mark for shutouts and tied for the second-best save percentage in league history.
Spencer Carbery, Stingrays head coach and director of hockey operations, called it “one of the greatest years for a goaltender that I’ve ever seen with my own eyes.” Zapolski spent the past two seasons in the ECHL. He also had short stints in the American Hockey League with the Milwaukee Admirals and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins a season ago. He completed his four-year career as starter at Mercyhurst in 2011.
Erie native Kyle Rogers has re-signed with the ECHL’s Toledo Walleye. Read more by clicking the link …
Check out NHL.com’s final mock drafts for the 2013 NHL Entry Draft, which is set for Sunday at Prudential Center in Newark, N.J.
Millcreek Township native Bryan Sienerth, who played for the Pittsburgh Penguins Elite’s Under-16 hockey club this past season, has verbally committed to Miami University, a NCAA Division I school in Oxford, Ohio. Sienerth, 17, chose the RedHawks over scholarship offers from Dartmouth and Mercyhurst.
Sienerth also had interest from other schools both in and out of the Ivy League. “I pretty much fell in love (with the school) as soon as I got there,” Sienerth said of Miami. He credited advice from Justin Mercier, a Millcreek Township native and former Miami standout who has played professionally in the NHL (Colorado Avalanche) and overseas, for helping him make his decision. “Everything fell into place,” Sienerth said.
Sienerth would join the RedHawks as part of the incoming freshman class for the 2015-16 season or 2016-17 season, depending on how well he plays in the next two seasons. He will play for the Penguins Elite’s Under-18 team next season, and possibly some games for the Sioux Falls (S.D.) Stampede, which selected Sienerth in the eighth round of the United States Hockey League draft last month. He hopes to play full time for Sioux Falls in the 2014-15 season.
The Erie Otters chose him in the 13th round of the 2012 OHL Priority Selection. He attended training camp in Ancaster, Ontario, last August as well as the club’s rookie development camp a month ago. He hasn’t ruled out the OHL in the future, since NCAA players can leave school to play at the major junior level.
- Victor Fernandes
JAMESTOWN, N.Y. – The Jamestown Ironmen hockey club has suspended operations for the 2013-14 season, Jamestown Savings Bank Ice Arena officials announced Wednesday. The Ironmen spent the past two seasons in the North American Hockey League, the largest USA Hockey-sanctioned Junior A league that recently completed its 37th season. They finished second in the North Division this past season with a 37-19-4 record, and then won the division’s playoff title before finishing fourth in the four-team Robertson Cup national championship tournament.
The roster included Erie native Nathan Ropelewski, 19, a forward who had four goals and seven points in 24 regular-season games and one point in eight playoff games.
“The team made a valiant effort at the Robertson Cup this season, and that effort was matched by some local people and business owners who worked diligently in multiple attempts to save the team and maintain operations for the 2013-2014 season,” Kurt Silcott, the arena’s chief executive officer, said in a statement. “Unfortunately those efforts ultimately did not come to fruition, and the team will not be playing in the upcoming season.”
In the statement, Ironmen owner Kenji Yamada said that “I am strongly looking forward to make the Jamestown Ironmen come back on the ice for the 2014-2015 season.”
Erie native Ryan Zapolski has signed a professional tryout agreement with the AHL’s Milwaukee Admirals, The Post and Courier of Charleston (S.C.) reported Monday.
Zapolski, 26, a Cathedral Prep and Mercyhurst University alumnus, earned the opportunity with the Nashville Predators’ AHL affiliate after completing a record-setting season with the ECHL’s South Carolina Stingrays last week.
Zapolski was the second player in league history to capture top rookie, top goaltender and most valuable player honors in the same season, as well as the third goaltender to ever claim the MVP award. He also set the league record with a 1.64 goals-against average, tied the mark for shutouts (8) and tied for the second-best save percentage (.942). He led the league in all three categories this season and finished tied for second with 27 wins.
Zapolski had a week-long stint with the AHL’s Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, the Pittsburgh Penguins’ affiliate, this past December. But he didn’t play in any games. He joins an Admirals club that includes former Erie Otters winger Michael Liambas. They are tied for ninth with the Chicago Wolves in the Western Conference, two points behind the Rockford IceHogs for the final playoff spot with four games left in the regular season. The Admirals play Chicago tonight.
In other Lakers’ news, fifth-year senior goaltender Max Strang signed an amateur tryout contract with the ECHL’s Reading Royals last Friday. Strang, who completed his Mercyhurst career last month, said he has replaced an injured goaltender on the Royals’ roster.
Erie native Bo Ruef had a goal and assist and Millcreek Township’s Miles Gates added two assists. But the United States fell to Finland 6-4 Saturday in the bronze-medal game at the World Deaf Hockey Championship in Vantaa, Finland. The U.S. finished 1-4 in the five-team tournament.
Ruef, 21, finished tied for the team lead and tied for fifth in the tournament with 11 points (five goals, six assists) in five games. Gates, 23, had no goals and five assists in five games. Both were on the U.S. team that captured bronze at the inaugural event in Winnipeg, Manitoba, four years ago.