It’s not the way they drew it up, but the Erie Otters have turned their attention to regrouping ahead of Friday’s Mastercard Memorial Cup Semi-Final against the QMJHL champion Saint John Sea Dogs, a team they overwhelmed in a 12-5 victory on Monday.
The Otters got a ‘wake-up call’ on Wednesday, digging themselves an early hole against the host Windsor Spitfires. Erie fell behind 3-0 and failed to register a shot on goal until the ninth minute of the first period. Though they went on to outshoot Windsor 35-19, the recovery wasn’t enough in a 4-2 loss.
“We’re down to sudden death now and we can’t afford to have anymore lapses like we did in the first period,” said Otters head coach Kris Knoblauch.
“I think we’ve come to the realization that we have to work to be successful. The loss to Windsor has shown us the reality that we have to play better, we have to execute and we’ve completely forgotten about the 12-5 win against Saint John.
“Friday is just another game now. A very big game.”
The Otters have suffered consecutive regular season losses just twice since the turn of the new year with a track record of coming back strong. They overcame playoff adversity as well, battling back from a 2-1 series deficit against the Owen Sound Attack in the Western Conference Final to win three straight and take the series in six games.
“We’ve lost games before,” added fifth-year veteran Kyle Pettit. “In our first year Darren Raddysh and I only won 19 games and I think we learned a lot through it. Losing is part of the game but what’s important is how you respond to it.”
Despite Wednesday’s loss, the Otters have continued to show off their strong possession game at the Mastercard Memorial Cup, outscoring opponents 18-11 while dominating on the shot clock to the tune of 109-62.
While they’ve outplayed their opponents, one-game sudden death scenarios will inevitably require a big save or two, something Knoblauch hopes his club will get from veteran netminder Troy Timpano.
“I know Troy can play a lot better,” he said when asked about Timpano’s .823 save percentage over 177 minutes of action. “We’ve seen it, and for us to win the last two games I’m confident that he will.”
Regardless of their lopsided win over Saint John in their last encounter, the Otters know a fast start will be vital to their success against a Sea Dogs club coming off a 7-0 blanking of the Seattle Thunderbirds on Tuesday.
“Our first 10 minutes will be crucial,” said Pettit, looking ahead to Friday. “When you look at our game against Windsor our start was very poor, but we got on track as the game went on.
“We need to play that way the whole game on Friday.”
The Otters and Sea Dogs go head-to-head, with the winner advancing to Sunday’s Mastercard Memorial Cup Championship Final. Game time is set for 7:00pm/4:00pm PT and action can be seen across the country on Sportsnet, TVA Sports, in the United States on NHL Network and will also stream online at CHLLIVE.com.