The Erie Otters were in unfamiliar territory Friday night – leading after two periods.
The Otters were in unfamiliar territory at the end of the game, too. They were ahead.
Behind career highs from Greg McKegg (six points) and Luke Cairns (five points), the Otters snapped a season-opening, four-game losing streak with a 7-5 win against defending champion Owen Sound in front of 1,997 fans at Tullio Arena.
But the Otters (1-4-0-0) needed a strong final period to seal the elusive win.
The Attack (3-4-0-0) opened the scoring 4:33 into the first, as Joseph Blandisi scored from in front off a pass from Holden Cook. But young players helped the Otters even the score before the first intermission.
Shortly after a strong shift from rookies Stephen Harper and Jake Evans and second-year winger Johnny McGuire, first-year defenseman Travis Wood fired a wrist through a screen and past Attack goaltender J.P. Cesario with 6:17 left. Cairns and rookie Nathan Glass had the assists, with Glass earning his first OHL point.
Yet the Attack took the lead again early in the second – with help from the Otters.
Matt Petgrave’s cross-ice pass from the left wing deflected off rookie defenseman Liam Maaskant’s stick and slipped past Otters goaltender Chris Festarini 1:39 into the period. Yet the Attack returned the favor, as Derek Holden’s rebound bounced off a defender to tie the score at 2 less than two minutes later.
Holden, who was scratched as an extra overager in three of the first four games, scored again at the 4:06 mark – this time on the power play. He fired a wrist shot under the crossbar to snap the 2-2 tie.
Cairns and McKegg, who fell one point of equaling the franchise mark of seven points, assisted on both of Holden’s goals. But the Otters’ lead didn’t last long, as Gemel Smith slipped past the defense to score the tying goal 5:06 into the period.
The teams combined for four goals in the opening five minutes and six goals overall in the period.
McKegg’s stretch pass to a streaking Brett Thompson turned into Thompson’s third goal of the season and a 4-3 Otters lead with 5:32 left in the second. McKegg earned his third assist and Glass his second on the goal. Then Cairns and McKegg combined for a power-play goal for a 5-3 Otters’ lead with 3:47 left.
The Attack sliced their deficit in half 1:01 into the third, as Artur Gavrus deflected a bouncing puck past Festarini. But Cairns scored his second goal of the game to regain a two-goal lead with 9:55 left, only to have the Attack move within one goal again at 6-5 on Jake Dotchin’s goal with 7:18 left in the game. But Brett Cook’s power-play goal with 4:06 left sealed the win.
Otters 7, Attack 5
Owen Sound 1 2 2 — 5
Erie 1 4 2 — 7
1st Period — 1. Owen Sound, Joseph Blandisi 2 (Cook), 4:33. 2. Erie, Travis Wood 1 (Cairns, Glass), 13:43. Penalties — Smith (O) high sticking, :10; Thompson (E) interference, 1:16; McGuire (E) 5-min. fighting, 4:26; Zweep (O) 5-min. fighting, 4:26; Catenacci (O) tripping, 6:09; Gavrus (O) 4-min. checking from behind, 15:02; Thompson (E) roughing, 15:02; McDonnell (E) roughing, 18:26; Gilbert (O) hooking, 18:50.
2nd Period — 3. Owen Sound, Matt Petgrave 3 (unassisted), 1:39. 4. Erie, Derek Holden 1 (McKegg, Cairns), 3:28. 5. Erie, Holden 2 (McKegg, Cairns), 4:06 (pp). 6. Owen Sound, Gemel Smith 2 (unassisted), 5:06. 7. Erie, Brett Thompson 3 (McKegg, Glass), 14:28. 8. Erie, Luke Cairns 1 (McKegg, Cook), 16:12 (pp). Penalties — Appio (O) hooking, 3:53; McKegg (E) roughing, 6:21; Catenacci (O) roughing, 6:21; Festarini (E) hooking (served by McKegg), 12:09; Gilbert (O) checking to the head, 16:00; McCarthy (E) 5-min. fighting, 18:09; Appio (E) 5-min. fighting, 18:09; Gilbert (O) interference, 18:35.
3rd Period — 9. Owen Sound, Artur Gavrus 1 (Smith, Childerley), 1:01. 10. Erie, Cairns 2 (McKegg), 10:05. 11. Owen Sound, Jake Dotchin 1 (Smith, Halmo), 12:42 (pp). 12. Erie, Brett Cook 1 (McKegg, Thompson), 15:54 (pp). Penalties — Brown (E) hooking, 11:52; Petgrave (O) high sticking, 14:46.
Shots on goal — Owen Sound, 8-10-10—28; Erie, 9-11-10—30.
Goaltenders — Owen Sound, J.P. Cesario 1-1-0-0 (30 shots, 23 saves); Erie, Chris Festarini 1-2-0-0 (28 shots, 24 saves).
Power plays — Owen Sound (1-4), Erie (3-8).
Referees — Craig Spada, Seth Ferguson. Linesmen — Jesse Wilmot, Adam Harris.
Attendance — 1,997.
* Luke Cairns, Otters (2 goals, 3 assists) ** Greg McKegg, Otters (6 assists) *** Derek Holden, Otters (2 goals)