GUELPH, Ontario – Even in a game with nine goals, five lead changes and four ties, Dane Fox – the OHL’s leading goal scorer in the regular season – was seemingly non-existent offensively in the Erie Otters’ Game 1 loss to Guelph tonight.
Fox never found his rhythm offensively, because he wasn’t his usual aggressive self. When Fox is at his best, he works relentlessly to get into open ice, puts constant pressure on defenses and utilizes on one of the league’s quickest shots.
But on this night, he seemed stagnant. He didn’t move his feet as well as he ordinarily does. At one point, Fox seemed hurt, as he skated to the bench hunched over with what appeared to be a grimace on his face.
He certainly was frustrated as the game progressed. That frustration boiled over in a big way late in the third period, as he vehemently argued a tripping penalty – his third minor penalty of the game – which led to an early trip to the dressing room with a 10-minute misconduct after being given a good bit of leeway from the officials. That left the Otters short-handed for two minutes, and then during a 6-on-4 power play in the closing seconds that included a final faceoff with 4 seconds left.
Fox joins Brendan Gaunce (who took that draw) as the team’s top faceoff guys.
Fox didn’t speak with the media after the game. Instead, he boarded the team bus early. Yet when asked to assess Fox’s late-game outburst, head coach Kris Knoblauch said, “I’m disappointed when anybody on my team loses it like that.”
“Certainly we could have them at the end of the game for that last shift and that last faceoff,” Knoblauch added. “But certainly we have to stay much more composed and focused, because certainly that’s not who we are. This time of the year, obviously emotions run hot. But certainly we have to look forward to our next shift.”
On the bright side, Fox is too good not to bounce back. Expect a much better effort from him in Game 2 Friday night.
*** Knoblauch didn’t want to comment on the controversial tripping penalty against Fox. Then he ended up commenting anyway. “I didn’t think that was tripping at the end,” he said. “Fox was trying to lift his stick. (Fox) was on his hands, and (the Storm player) falls down.”
The officiating was consistent for the most part. But that was a tough spot to call a penalty that was borderline at best.
*** Defenses didn’t struggle as much as the 5-4 score would indicate. Both offenses were simply in top form.
There wasn’t a bad goal all night. Instead, there were deflections and redirects, strong finishes on odd-man rushes, 2 or 3 wicked wrist shots (including Connor Brown‘s power-play goal in the first period) and a slap shot from Tyler Bertuzzi that sailed through D Travis Dermott‘s legs and past G Devin Williams.
*** However, the Otters’ D has to step up Friday, because a Storm club that scored 5 goals on 26 shots in Game 1 gets suspended 40-goal scorer Brock McGinn back in the lineup.
*** Speaking of the Storm’s attack, this game showed how dangerous they are. They have more quality scorers beyond frontline guys like McGinn, Scott Kosmachuk, Zack Mitchell and Kerby Rychel. Bertuzzi had 2 goals tonight, while Ryan Horvat scored the GW goal 6 minutes into the third period.
“The other lines have to be able to chip in and take some of the pressure off the guys,” head coach Scott Walker said.
- Victor Fernandes