HUNTSVILLE - At long last ... victory.
Huntsville goalie Alex Ebner makes a big stop in the Otters’ 6-5 win over Midland on Sunday.
DEBBIE BRADLEY PHOTOGRAPHY
Heading into Sunday’s game with the Midland Flyers, the Huntsville Otters were hoping to change their losing streak.
The Otters were riding a nine-game winless streak heading into the game at the Don Lough Arena, with the ninth setback coming the previous night, with an 11-3 loss at the hands of the Erin Devils host.
Few would have given the Otters a chance against the Flyers, who are tops in the Georgian Bay Mid Ontario Junior C Hockey League’s North Division.
Huntsville went into Sunday’s contest in last place in the same division and last overall in the league.
However, two recent acquisitions for the Otters stood tall in Sunday’s game with a three-goal performance coming from the recently-signed Brendan Fitter and a 40-save feat by Alex Ebner, piloted the Otters to a close 6-5 upset win.
“It was the right team to beat, one in our own division,” said head coach Monty Clouthier.
The Flyers, who came into the game with a 15-7 record, had beaten the Otters in their previous five encounters, but two of the matches had been decided by only two goals or less.
The Otters jumped out to a good start in Sunday’s game, not allowing themselves to fall behind early, which has been the team’s Achilles Heel so far this season.
Brodie Muckler scored just three minutes into the game, and Fitter notched his first of the afternoon just seconds later to stake Huntsville to a 2-0 lead.
Fitter scored his second of the game, on the power play, around the eight minute mark of the period, before the Flyers got two past Ebner, who the Otters picked up this past week from Penetang.
But Fitter completed his hat trick with less than one minute left in the opening period to give Huntsville a 4-2 lead going into the first intermission. His efforts on this night earned him first star honours, with Ebner picking up the game’s second star.
The two sides exchanged goals in the second, with midget affiliate Noah Stevens replying for the home side, resulting in a 5-3 lead for Huntsville heading into the third.
The two teams were scoreless through the first part of the third, until Midland scored to bring themselves to within one of the Otters. Jack Campbell would give Huntsville a two-goal cushion five minutes later, but the Flyers refused to go quietly, scoring with less than two minutes left to again move within one goal of the Otters’ lead.
But that was as close as they came and the Otters were able to hold on and secure the two points.
Ebner, who had spent last year with Penetang and started this year with the Kings, was especially busy in the third as the Flyers pumped 19 pucks his way. He allowed only two past him and helped Huntsville to its fifth win of the season.
Clouthier credits a better dressing room atmosphere and some solid goaltending as reasons for the win on Sunday.
“They outshot us in the third, but we got ourselves into a defensive mode. We did give up some quality shots but Alex did his job and we won. The confidence is up on the team right now, it really is … the attitude in the room is so much better.”
The Otters fell behind quickly against the Devils on Saturday, down 7-0 before Ryan West scored his first as an Otter after the team acquired him two weeks ago.
Jay Dix scored the team’s second of the night when the Devils were leading 8-0 and Erik Macpherson notched the team’s last goal with less than one minute remaining.
Clouthier said the team was missing almost 10 regulars due to illness, injury and suspension for that particular game, and had to use a short bench.
The Otters also picked up veteran defenceman Josh Bullied to bolster their depleted blueline, who was released last week by Caledon.
Clouthier said the team was in need of an experienced defenceman and signed Bullied to a card.
The head coach added that the team plans to carry three goalies for the time being, giving the workload to Ebner while Tye Greschuk (knee) and Landan Peleikis (concussion) recover from their injuries.
The euphoria of the Huntsville win will last another day or so before the Otters face arguably the best team in the loop when they travel to Alliston to take on the league-leading Hornets.
Huntsville is back home Sunday afternoon to host the Schomberg Cougars, who sit last in the league’s Central Division.