The Erie Otters are back above the .500 mark.
Shawn Szydlowski’s power-play goal with 5:04 left in regulation snapped a tie and handed the Erie Otters a 4-2 win against Niagara in front of 2,712 at Tullio Arena Wednesday night.
With their second straight win, the Otters improved to 19-18-1-1 on the season and moved from eighth into a tie for fifth with Plymouth in the Western Conference standings.
They were bolstered by the return of rookie defenseman Adam Pelech, who played a night after joining teammate Chris Marchese on Ontario’s gold medal-winning team at the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Marchese was scratched from the lineup.
Pelech helped the Otters stymie the IceDogs (23-10-2-2) during a four-minute power play in the opening minutes of the first period. Less than two minutes after that man advantage expired, Otters captain Greg McKegg turned defenseman David Shields’ seemingly innocent dump-in with the game’s opening goal.
An IceDogs defender stopped the dump-in attempt. But McKegg grabbed the loose puck and flipped a backhand past goaltender Dalton McGrath at the 7:32 mark. McGrath replaced regular No. 1 Mark Visentin, who started in goal for his native Canada against Russia in the IIHF World Junior Championship’s gold-medal game in Buffalo Wednesday night.
The Otters outshot Niagara 11-6 in the second period. But the IceDogs managed the only goal, as Freddie Hamilton redirected the puck past goaltender Ramis Sadikov with 1:42 left in the period.
The Otters appeared to snap that tie on McKegg’s deflection early in the third. But the officials ruled no goal because McKegg played the puck with a high stick. The ruling was upheld by the video replay judge.
But McKegg wasted little time in scoring again. He turned defenseman Brett Cook’s cross-ice pass into his 27th goal of the season and a 2-1 lead 6:39 into the period. Yet IceDogs center Ryan Strome, who joins McKegg among the OHL’s top five scorers, slipped past the Otters’ defense and then slipped a shot past Sadikov to tie the score at 2 at the 8:39 mark.
But Szydlowski snapped the tie in the closing minutes.
The Otters recorded a season-low in shots allowed (22). … Szydlowski also had an assist. … Derek Holden and Niagara’s Darren Archibald had two assists apiece. … The Otters presented a check for $1,312 to the Children’s Advocacy Center of Erie County in a pregame ceremony. The funds were raised at the inaugural Guns & Hoses Charity Hockey Game at Tullio Dec. 18.
- Victor Fernandes
Otters 4, IceDogs 2
Niagara 0 1 1 — 2
Erie 1 0 2 — 4
1st Period — 1. Erie, Greg McKegg 26 (Shields), 7:32. Penalties — Luciani (E) 4-min. checking from behind, 1:32; Pelech (E) tripping, 11:40.
2nd Period — 2. Niagara, Freddie Hamilton 16 (Archibald, Strome), 18:18. Penalties — MacEachern (N) hooking, 6:43; McKegg (E) tripping, 10:15; Archibald (N) checking to the head, 19:17.
3rd Period — 3. Erie, McKegg 27 (Cook, Szydlowski), 6:39. 4. Niagara, Ryan Strome 23 (Archibald), 8:39. 4. Erie, Shawn Szydlowski 19 (McKegg, Holden), 14:56 (pp). 5. Erie, David Broll 7 (Holden, Shields), 17:58. Penalties — Mercer (N) holding, 14:50.
Shots on goal — Niagara, 9-6-7—22; Erie, 10-11-14—35.
Goaltenders — Niagara, Dalton McGrath 5-2-0-0 (35 shots, 31 saves); Erie, Ramis Sadikov 19-14-1-1 (22 shots, 20 saves).
Power plays — Niagara (0-4), Erie (1-3).
Referees — Seth Ferguson, Mike Cairns. Linesmen — Fraser McIntire, Ray King.
Attendance — 2,712.
* Greg McKegg, Otters (2 goals) ** Shawn Szydlowski, Otters (goal, assist) *** Brett Cook, Otters (assist)