HUNTSVILLE - Have the Huntsville Otters turned a corner?
Jay Dix of the Huntsville Otters (above) drives to the net to score a spectacular goal Sunday against the Erin Shamrocks. The goal triggered a four-goal outburst by the Otters, who defeated Erin 7-3.
PHOTO COURTESY OF DEBBIE BRADLEY PHOTOGRAPHY
Head coach Monty Clouthier thinks so.
“They know each other now and they are confident with each other’s play. We still have a long way to go but it was definitely a positive weekend ... it was a confidence booster for sure.”
After suffering four straight losses, the Georgian Bay Mid Ontario Junior C Hockey League team posted a convincing 7-3 win over the Erin Shamrocks at the Don Lough Arena Sunday afternoon, pushing the team’s record to 2-4 on the young season.
The win came less than 24 hours after a trip to Erin Saturday night yielded a 6-2 loss for Huntsville.
Although one game does not a season make, the Otters managed to do something that have rarely done to this point, put together a full 60 minutes of hockey.
Much of Sunday’s credit has to go to goalie Landan Peleikis, who made several key stops and did so with authourity. He robbed the Shamrocks of at least four goals when the game could have gone either way. He made 43 saves for the win and earned first star honours for his effort.
Clouther said that Sunday’s performance was what they expected of Peleikis when they named him the number one at the start of the season, adding that his play early in Sunday’s game was the turning point in the win.
“He played really strong. We are going to give up scoring chances because we are younger and that’s when you need the goaltending to bail you out. He did that for us on Sunday,” he said.
The game was scoreless heading into the second period on Sunday, until Erik Macpherson slapped the puck into the top corner at 4:14.
Erin tied the score about four minutes later as a point shot was tipped past a startled Peleikis.
Then the second period letdown came … but this time it was the Otters who were on the other end of the stick.
Huntsville scored four times in under five minutes to take a stranglehold on the game. No goal was perhaps prettier for Huntsville fans to see than Jay Dix outskating an Erin defender and holding him off while managing to slip the puck under a sprawling Shamrocks’ goalie for a 2-1 lead.
“We are starting to work on that in practice,” Clothier said. “We want our players to drive to the net more because we felt we weren’t getting the shots on net enough and we want our players to go into the dirty areas more.”
Josh Barkey, Shawn Fraser and Dix again counted Huntsville goals in the second period, as the Otters ended 40 minutes of play up 5-1.
Brandon Quo Vadis put Huntsville up 6-1 only 1:23 into the third, before the Shamrocks tried to stage a comeback with two goals of their own. Barkey ended the dramatics with an empty-netter.
Not that all the Otters’ play on Sunday was rock-solid. The team still has some issues moving the puck out of their zone effectively and they still take needless penalties at inopportune times, something Clouthier acknowledges the players still have to work on in the coming games.
“It will come. It is early yet, but we work on that religiously in practice. We know that is an area we have to go work on. Right now we want to keep things simple, that if there is no play there just get it up off the glass and out of our end.”
While the Otters played a full 60 minutes on Sunday, the same could not be said of Saturday’s game, where six minutes unraveled what was a solid effort for the most part.
The Shamrocks were able to score four times in that six-minute span, effectively taking the Otters out of the game.
“We had that lapse and we got into penalty trouble,” said Clouthier. “We played a good solid game except for that six-minute lapse. We had our speed on them, we out-chanced them, despite what the shots say in the website. We didn’t give up in the third.”
JD Sterne and Jordan Harris had the two Huntsville goals.
Huntsville now sits in second spot in the league’s North Division with four points, one better than the Penetang Kings and six back of the undefeated Midland Flyers
The Otters travel to Alliston Friday night to face the Central Division-leading Hornets and are then back home on Sunday to possibly put some distance between themselves and Penetang in the race for second in the division.