Thursday, October 10, 2013

Owen Sound Attack 2 at Erie Otters 3 (OHL) - October 9, 2013

Although I am in the middle of an NFL road trip, the sports schedule sometimes allows for a detour to see a game in another sport. Such was the case yesterday, when I had a three hour drive to Buffalo after  stopping in at the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton (more on that in a future post). The only city of note between the two is Erie, Pennsylvania, one of America's great minor league towns. The Eastern League's SeaWolves are the big name here, but the NBDL has the Bayhawks, and there is even a Continental Indoor Football League club known as the Explosion.

At this time of year though, there is only an OHL team in action: the Erie Otters who have playing here since 1996. Amazingly (for me at least), there was only a single game on the OHL slate, but it happened to be in Erie. The hockey gods were smiling on me yet again. With the Otters boasting Connor McDavid (above), likely to go number one overall in 2015, along with André Burakovsky (23rd overall to Washington in 2013) and Connor Brown (6th round to Toronto in 2012), I had no choice but to stop in.

The Erie Insurance Arena has been recently renovated, although having not been there before, I couldn't say how it has changed. It is located right in the middle of downtown, and there is plenty of street parking within a block. Meters expire at 6 pm, so avoid the $4 garage right next door.

The seating bowl is very nice, with two seating levels in a horseshoe shape. Seats in the center sections are $19, those elsewhere are $17. The rink was less than half-full for the game I saw, so I moved around after each period to get pictures from different angles.

The Owen Sound Attack were in town for this early-season battle, with both around the .500 mark. The visitors scored first when Kurtis Gabriel (3rd round, Minnesota, 2013) banged home a rebound just 41 seconds in. The Otters tied it on a power play when Burakovsky was left alone and beat Attack keeper Brandon Hope (below) under the crossbar. There were only a couple of inches available, but Burakovsky made no mistake; it was an amazing play and those top-shelf shots are something that he is known for.

In the second, Brown (below) took a breakaway pass while shorthanded and skated in alone, beating Hope with a deke and backhand to the top of the net. Another great goal and maybe one Brown will repeat when he joins the Maple Leafs in a couple of years.

The third period saw a fluke goal when Otters' goalie Oscar Dansk tried to clear the puck, but instead gave it to Chris Bigras, who deposited the gift into the net to tie the game at 2. In another interesting coincidence, both players were drafted in the second round by Columbus: Dansk in 2012; Bigras in 2013. I'm guessing there will be a bit of trash talking over that one when they meet at training camp next fall.

With the game tied, the action really picked up as Erie went on the offensive. They outshot the misnamed Attack 11-2 in the final frame and were rewarded when Adam Pelech (above, 3rd round to the Islanders in 2012) received a pass in the slot from Burakovsky and wristed a shot to beat Hope with just 2.4 seconds left. In the photo below, you can see the replay of the shot on the screen along with the time remaining. The Owen Sound players were shocked to lose so late, but they had been outplayed and didn't deserve the point.

I really enjoyed this game and the overall experience. Junior hockey is a great place to see upcoming NHL players but you have to do your research in advance. I have been out of the loop for the past few years, but look forward to catching up on hockey in general. I am confident that you will be hearing a lot from Burakovsky in the next few years, and maybe Connor Brown will be the second-line scorer the Leafs need to put them over the top.


It was Cancer Awareness Night and the Otters wore special uniforms with ribbons along the lower part of the sleeves and body. You can see this in the photo below of Michael Curtis skating in on Hope.



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