Windsor Fights Back
The longest game in franchise history ended with the Windsor Spitfires tying the best-of-seven series at one game apiece.
By ALEX SIBLEY
After winning Game 1 in Windsor Wednesday night, the Erie Otters felt like they were in control of the OHL's Western Conference quarterfinal series against the Spitfires.
Jeff Brown shifted the momentum with one shot.
Brown's goal 11 minutes, 9 seconds into double overtime sealed a 4-3 victory in what became the longest game in franchise history Saturday night, tying the best-of-seven series at one game apiece.
"That's a huge win for our team," said Brown, who also added a goal early in the second period. "I thought we deserved (this game). We needed a game like this for a momentum swing."
Now the Otters are in a dog fight with the two-time defending league and Memorial Cup Champion Spitfires, as the series heads back to Windsor for Game 3 Monday night.
"We have to find a way to turn it around now," said Mike Cazzola, who finished the game as the No. 1 star with a goal and two assists. "You just have to put this behind you and get ready for Game 3."
The Otters had plenty of chances throughout the game to secure a 2-0 lead in the series. Erie fired 43 shots on net and had 10 power-play opportunities in the game.
Unfortunately for Erie, Windsor goalie Jack Campbell played what Brown called, "the best game he's played" between the pipes.
Campbell made 19 saves in the two extra sessions, but it was his save on Anthony Luciani with less than a minute to go in regulation that saved the Spitfires.
Luciani found an opening and fired a puck towards the net, but Campbell's spectacular glove save denied the overage winger on what could have been the game-winning goal.
"Truthfully, I just live for moments like these," Campbell said. "It doesn't happen often when you're in double overtime with a great team like Erie and you're getting peppered with shots. There really isn't another feeling like it."
Double overtime games haven't been kind to the Otters in the playoffs. In their last trip to the fifth period, the Otters lost to Kitchener 3-2 in March 2005. And with a young roster with only a handful of playoff games under their belt this season, a lot of the Otters aren't used to playing a game that lasted 91 minutes and 9 seconds.
The Spitfires on the other hand are a veteran team with a ton of experience in games like these.
"It's the first time a lot of us have played a double-overtime game," Erie winger Shawn Szydlowski said. "It's pretty tough on the body. But now we know what it's going to be like and how to be prepared."
Both teams scored twice in the first period, as Cazzola put Erie ahead just over the halfway mark of the period to stake Erie a 1-0 lead.
Jake Carrick would tie the game at 1 with his first of the series, just to see Greg McKegg restore the lead less than a minute later at the 17:36 mark.
Nashville Predators prospect Ryan Ellis would finish out the scoring in the first as his shot low to the ice beat Ramis Sadikov to make it 2-2 after 20 minutes of play. Sadikov finished with 45 saves on 49 Windsor shots.
Brown would score the lone goal of a Spitfire-controlled second period, as the Otters managed just six shots in the middle frame, none of which were threatening.
With the crowd of 4,818 rather quiet as Windsor continued control of the third, Szydlowski put some much-needed energy into the arena with his first goal of the playoffs that beat Campbell over the shoulder to knot the game at three.
The momentum would eventually turn into frustration as every quality scoring chance from there on was stopped by Campbell.
"You got to tip your hat to (Campbell); he played a great game," Szydlowski said.
Adversity isn't something that Otters have faced much of the second half of the season. Before Saturday, they won 13 of 15 home games, enjoyed win streaks of five and eight games, and most importantly they believed they can make a deep run.
This time of year, it's how you respond, as the best-of-seven series shrinks to a best-of-five.
"The most important game is the next one," Szydlowski said. "We just have to focus on that right now."
Saginaw 3, Guelph 2 (Saginaw leads 1-0)
Plymouth 6, Kitchener 5 (Plymouth leads 1-0)
Owen Sound 3, London 2 (OT) (Owen Sound leads 1-0)
Oshawa 10, Kingston 1 (Oshawa leads 2-0)
Sudbury 8, Ottawa 7 (OT) (Sudbury leads 1-0)
London 5, Owen Sound 1 (Series tied a 1)
Mississauga 1, Belleville 0 (Mississauga leads 2-0)
Plymouth 3, Kitchener 2 (OT) (Plymouth leads 2-0)
~Alex Sibley covers sports for the Erie Reader. You can contact him via e-mail at ASibley@Eriereader.com, or you can follow him on Twitter @ErieReaderSport.