Saturday, March 10, 2007

You Otter Be There, Too!

I am on the road tonight in Erie, PA to report on the OHL and the Erie Otters (along with the Erie SeaWolves events) as they take on the Saginaw Spirit. I couldn't find any of the Spirit Squad within city limits, but I also couldn't find a chance to take a few snapshots of the game because of league rules forbidding taking photos. My view of the game was great as there is usually no bad seat in the house at Tullio Arena where the announced attendance was 3,900 (which I suspect was rounded off).

The Otters have been struggling around as a young team settling towards the bottom of the Ontario Hockey League. With all of their prior stars in the NHL by graduating junior hockey, it seems that the fans will have to be patient while the team reloads with talent. The Spirit, and all their cowbell ringing fans, was going to have a good view of an execution via the scoreboard.

The action was fast paced as the Otters matched speed and strength against the powerhouse Saginaw Spirit. But with cross-ice passes that were missed, icing calls, and stupid penalties, the Otters were in good shape by the end of the first period to only be down 2-0.

Anthony Peluso gave the Erie hockey fans in the building something positive to cheer about as he challenged and over matched one Spirit player. He dropped the gloves and held his opponent with his long reach waiting for the opportunity to strike. Furiously, the Spirit player swung his arms only to reach nothing. Peluso slammed him once with a roundhouse, waited, and then pummeled the guy again. On the third punch, Peluso knocked out the Spirit player and then skated away with tough-guy bravado to take his seat where he would be spending the next 5 minutes.

The Otters goalie, Kevin Beech, was strong in flashes, but a series of fluky goals served as the downfall of the game. One goal went over his shoulder while another was missed due to players screening his vision. To Beech's credit, he had gotten no defensive help as an additional goal was poked at repeatedly till it got behind him to put the Otters in a serious situation down 3-1 by the waining moments of the second period.

I kept seeing the number 22 around the arena on many of the jerseys, but the 22 belonged to a player who Erie could have used. Ryan O'Merra, once an Erie Otter, was now making a return to Tullio Arena wearing the patriotic red, white, and blue of the Saginaw Spirit. Once the Erie hockey fans cheered and supported him, but this day he was jeered and booed by the Otters faithful in the arena. O'Merra softly scooped in the puck to a goalie-less net in the final minute to the game rubbing in a futile Otter effort.

Despite the result of the game, it was an exciting game to watch and I finally got the opportunity to browse through the Erie Otters merchandising table. After giving it much thought while being served by a charmingly attractive young lady and a very helpful young man, I was able to make another addition to my hockey collection by purchasing a Otters third sweater (despite my personal disinterest in "old school" drawstring style) and a Otters collectors puck.
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