The Erie Otters qualified for the OHL playoffs Wednesday night.
Perhaps they should consider giving the spot back.
The Otters failed to control their own postseason destiny for the second straight game, as they lost to Guelph 4-1 in front of 3,158 at Tullio Arena. Yet, the Otters (31-26-5-2) clinched a Western Conference berth because London beat Owen Sound 4-3 Wednesday.
The Otters remain seventh in the Western Conference, one point behind sixth-place Saginaw and two behind No. 5 Sault Ste. Marie. The Spirit have a game in hand. The Greyhounds have two games in hand.
The Otters’ outside chance at the No. 4 seed and home-ice advantage in the first round became slimmer with the loss. The Otters are five points behind fourth-place Plymouth with four games left. The Whalers have a game in hand.
The Otters took a 1-0 lead in the final minute of the first period on Anthony Luciani’s 33rd goal of the season. He took linemate Andrew Yogan’s cross-ice pass and fired a slap shot past Storm goaltender Brandon Foote. But the Otters could have taken a commanding lead into the first intermission.
The Otters failed on four power-play opportunities, including a 5-on-3 for 39 seconds midway through the period. That burned the Otters early in the second, as Taylor Beck’s power-play goal – his 34th of the season – tied the score at 1-1 just 1:16 into the period. Beck, pictured at right, scored again on the power play five minutes later to hand the Storm a 2-1 lead. Then the Storm took a 3-1 lead with 22 seconds left in the period. Sam Lofquist scored the goal, his fourth of the season, on an assist from defense mate Adam Comrie.
Foote took over from there, finishing with 27 saves, although he wasn’t tested in the third (five shots on goal). Guelph’s Mathew Sisca capped the scoring with an unassisted goal with 7:05 left in the game.
Beck and Sisca (goal, assist) and Michael Latta (two assists) had two points apiece for the Storm (30-29-3-1), which moved three points ahead of Owen Sound and have a game in hand in the battle for the West’s final playoff spot.
- Victor Fernandes