Now that looked like the Erie Otters club that won 52 games in the regular season.
The Otters finally played their game for the first time in this best-of-7 Western Conference championship series against Guelph in a game they had to win – Game 4 tonight at Erie Insurance Arena. It took facing playoff elimination and the end of their season to bring that out of this team. But they needed something after losing three straight in disappointing fashion.
* Goaltending - Devin Williams shook a subpar Game 3 – 5 goals on 27 shots before being pulled early in the third period – and two first-period goals (including one on the game’s first shot for the second straight night) to make 26 saves tonight.
Williams made the saves he needed to make – and a few more he had to make to keep momentum in the Otters’ favor. He (and Oscar Dansk, for that matter) didn’t make those saves in the first three games.
But tonight, Williams stymied the Storm on a couple of break-ins and a few odd-man rushes to maintain the two-goal lead.
* Responsible defense - The Otters allowed an early goal for the second straight game, but that wasn’t too alarming, even in that must-win situation. This team gave up early goals at times throughout the season, and they responded in typical fashion – blocking shots, clearing out the front of the net and limiting rebounds. They were finally back at it on D tonight.
* Puck possession & hard drives to the net - The Storm didn’t score over the final 2 periods. The D deserves credit, so do a group of forwards who helped out the D with puck possession and patience on the offensive end. And credit linemates Connor Brown and Dane Fox for looking like the players that led the OHL with 128 points (Brown) and 64 goals (Fox).
Brown had 2 goals and an assist. Fox had his first goal of the series and assist. And both had more chances to score.
But now comes the bigger test – Game 5 in Guelph on Friday night. The Otters are 0-5 in Sleeman Centre this season, including 5-4 and 7-2 losses in the first two games of the series. Storm captain Matt Finn said they were a bit overconfident because of the 3-0 series lead. Head coach Scott Walker said his team didn’t match the intensity that they expected to see from the Otters. I can’t imagine that will happen again Friday. The Storm want to close it out that night, because if they lose then it’s a brand-new series heading back to Erie for Game 6 on Saturday.
- Victor Fernandes