Injury plagued or not, the Erie Otters are scoring goals.
Behind Phil Varone’s hat trick and Greg McKegg’s two goals, the Otters set a season high in goals in a 7-3 win against Kitchener in front of 3,731 at Tullio Arena on Saturday night.
Erie’s offensive onslaught – the most goals scored in a game since the 2009-10 season finale (8 against London), occurred two nights after scoring six goals in a shutout win against Belleville.
Kitchener entered the game with nine wins in the past 10 games. But the surging Otters (12-14-1-0) jumped on the Rangers, as they built a 3-0 lead in the opening 5½ minutes of the opening period on their way to snapping a 10-game losing streak against their Midwest Division rival. The Otters also have their first three-game winning streak since February.
“That was the best game we’ve played,” said Varone, a former Ranger.
Varone scored on assists from Bret Cook and David Broll at the 2:03 to open the scoring. Then McKegg continued his offensive assault with the first of his two straight goals. He fired a rebound of David Shields’ shot past goaltender Brandon Maxwell, a former Otters’ draft pick, for a 2-0 lead.
Fifty-seven seconds later, McKegg scored again – his sixth goal in the past two games – on assists from Shields and Derek Holden for a 3-0 advantage. Ryan Murphy, the league’s highest-scoring defenseman, slipped a shot through goaltender Ramis Sadikov’s pads to move the Rangers within 3-1 with 2:28 left.
The Otters’ lead shrunk to 3-2 just 17 seconds into the second, as Gabriel Landeskog deflected Jonathan Jasper’s shot past Sadikov for Landeskog’s team-leading 20th goal of the season.
But the Otters responded 1:02 later, as Varone scored his second goal of the game and seventh in 14 games as an Otter, for a 4-2 lead. Then Jeremy Gottzmann scored at the 2:44 mark of the period to regain the Otters’ three-goal lead – his first goal since Feb. 13, a span of 46 games.
Kitchener (17-6-0-1) sliced that lead to 5-3 at the 7:14 mark on Cody Sol’s first goal of the season. Landeskog and Jason Akeson assisted on the goal, with Akeson recording his Ontario Hockey League-leading 36th assist and 48th point of the season. But the Otters continued attacking the Rangers’ net.
The Otters finished the second with 25 shots on goal, which tied for the season high (Oct. 22 against Sault Ste. Marie). The teams combined for 39 shots on goal in the middle period. The Otters finished with a season-high 51 shots.
Early in the third, Matthew Paton, who assisted on Gottzmann’s goal, snapped a 16-game goal drought to hand the Otters a 6-3 lead. Jordan Coccimiglio earned his second assist of the game on the play.
Then Varone completed the first three-goal outing in his five-year OHL career – and the team’s second in two games (McKegg) with a power-play goal on assists from McKegg and Luciani 7:43 into the period. Varone and McKegg were the first Otters’ teammates with hat tricks in consecutive games since Justin Hodgman (Dec. 20 vs. Sudbury) and Andrew Yogan (Dec. 28 at Brampton).
Varone and McKegg, who also had an assist, led the Otters’ offense. Shields, Luciani and Coccimiglio had two assists apiece. Paton (goal, assist) also had two points.
“When (role players) chip in,” McKegg said, “you know you’re going to have a good night.”
- Victor Fernandes
Otters 7, Rangers 3
Kitchener 1 2 0 — 3
Erie 3 2 2 — 7
1st Period — 1. Erie, Phil Varone 6 (Cook, Broll), 2:03. 2. Erie, Greg McKegg 19 (Shields, Szydlowski), 4:26. 3. Erie, McKegg 20 (Shields, Holden), 5:23. 4. Kitchener, Ryan Murphy 13 (Maxwell), 17:32. Penalties — Lowry (K) interference, 15:13.
2nd Period — 5. Kitchener, Gabriel Landeskog 20 (Jasper, Catenacci), :17. 6. Erie, Varone 7 (Luciani), 1:19. 7. Erie, Jeremy Gottzmann 1 (Paton, Coccimiglio), 2:44. 8. Kitchener, Cody Sol 1 (Landeskog, Akeson), 7:14. Penalties — Broll (E) 5-min. fighting, 2:47; Randell (K) 5-min. fighting, 2:47; Gazdic (E) 5-min. fighting, 6:00; Thomson (K) 5-min. fighting, 6:00; Szydlowski (E) elbowing, 13:39; Randell (K) interference, 15:10.
3rd Period — 9. Erie, Matthew Paton 4 (Coccimiglio, Grant), 4:47. 10. Erie, Varone 8 (McKegg, Luciani), 7:43 (pp). Penalties — Crescenzi (K) checking to the head, 6:26; Austin (E) tripping, 10:39.
Shots on goal — Kitchener, 11-14-15—40; Erie, 12-25-15—51.
Goaltenders — Kitchener, Brandon Maxwell 12-5-0-0 (51 shots, 44 saves); Erie, Ramis Sadikov 12-10-1-0 (40 shots, 37 saves).
Power plays — Kitchener (0-2), Erie (1-3).
Referees — Darcy Burchell, Dave Gauthier. Linesmen — Daryl Wolfe, Mike Harrington.
Attendance — 3,731.
* Phil Varone, Otters (hat trick) ** Greg McKegg, Otters (2 goals, assist) *** David Shields, Otters (2 assists)