Thompson nets 4, as Otters bury the Spitfires 8-2 in 1,000th career game
The second line of Brett Thompson, Anthony Luciani and Phil Varone were too much for Windsor to handle Saturday night, as the Otters posted a 8-2 victory in front of a season-high crowd.
Most people don't handle demotions as well as Brett Thompson.
After spending the majority of his time since arriving in Erie Jan.10 on the first line with Greg McKegg and Mike Cazzola, Thompson was replaced by Shawn Szydlowski.
That's just fine with him. It seems like Thompson with his new line of Anthony Luciani and Phil Varone have been playing together for years.
Thompson scored four goals and added two assists to record his first career six-point outing, as the Erie Otters defeated the Windsor Spitfires 8-2 in front of 5, 417 in the franchises 1,000th career game.
"It's something I'll never forget," Thompson said. "That's the most points I've ever gotten in a game, so it's definitely a memorable moment."
On a night where the packed house came to celebrate the team's past, the current team is currently in a tight battle in the Western Conference for seeding in the playoffs. Erie entered the contest in seventh place with 54 points, while Windsor came in with 59 points, good enough for the fifth in the standings.
After emcee and current play-by-play announcer Paul Roper got the crowd fired up by introducing seven former Otters, including the 2002 playoff hero Sean Courtney, whose goal in overtime of Game 5 of the OHL Finals gave the Otters their first and only league championship, it was Windsor who seized the early momentum.
Nashville Predators' prospect and two-time Memorial Cup champion Ryan Ellis blasted a slap shot over the shoulder of Erie goaltender Ramis Sadikov to give the Spitfires a 1-0 advantage just 3 minutes, 45 seconds into the game.
That goal took the life out of the building.
It usually takes the likes of skill players to get a club back into the flow of the game with a goal. But role players such as Johnny McGuire, Brett Appio and Connor Crisp decided to take matters into their own hands – literally.
Those three all dropped the gloves in a span of four minutes in an attempt to gain back the momentum for a club that needs every point it can get as the playoffs inch closer and closer.
"(The fights) gave us a lot of momentum," Luciani said. "But also, the crowd is a major factor. As the crowd got louder, we played harder."
The season-high crowd enjoyed the tilts, but cheered even more when Thompson put his first of the night behind Windsor goalie Jack Campbell to tie the game at one.
"Getting the crowd into it early is always a big factor when you're at home," Thompson said.
Just like it did a night ago against Sault. Ste. Marie, Erie put its opponent away early with a big second period.
Overage winger Shawn Szydlowski gave the Otters a 2-1 lead after he found the back of the net 1:41 into the middle frame with his 29th goal of the season.
Thompson would finish off his hat trick in the second period, as rookie Luke Cairns and Varone would also score, giving Erie a 6-1 cushion heading into the final 20 minutes of play.
"Things seemed to go our way tonight," coach Robbie Ftorek said. "We still have to work on some things, but we had an opportunity tonight, so it was good."
Luciani and Thompson would score again in the third, rounding out the Erie scoring for the evening. Since being united on the second line, Thompson, Varone and Luciani have contributed nine goals and 23 points in two games, while becoming a lethal weapon on an already dangerous hockey club.
"I guess we have some unknown chemistry," Luciani said. "We just see each other and give the puck to the open man. The person who scores makes it happen."
The newly-formed second line was named the game's three stars, while Varone extended his point streak to 10 games with his one goal, three assist night.
Thompson was just one point away from setting a franchise record for most points in a single game with his effort Saturday night.
"We're bonding and the chemistry is there," Thompson said. "Those are probably the best line mates I've ever played with. It's pretty easy to put up points when you're playing with guys like (Luciani and Varone)."
Lost in the offensive output was the effort from Sadikov, who stopped 34 shots for his 27th win of the season.
At the end of the night, the Otters remained in seventh in the Western Conference, trailing London by one point for sixth and Windsor by three points for the fifth. It's a logjam to say the least for seeding, as Erie is just seven points behind Midwest Division rival Kitchener for third place in the conference standings.
But with 16 games left in the regular season, all Erie can focus on is winning, and letting the playoff positioning letting itself play out.
The confidence is there with this experienced team, when asked if he thought the team can compete with and beat any team, Luciani didn't sugarcoat it.
"I believe so…yeah, we can."
~Alex Sibley covers sports for the Erie Reader. You can contact him at ASibley@Eriereader.com, or you can follow him on Twitter @ErieReaderSport.