HUNTSVILLE - Last place in the league?
Nine-game losing streak during the regular season?
These events from the past campaign are all but forgotten, if you have been following the Huntsville Otters in recent days.
The junior C hockey team erased the thoughts of a trying 2012-2013 Georgian Bay Mid Ontario Junior C Hockey League regular season with two wins in a row during their best-of-three preliminary playoff series the past weekend … and to date, the most two important victories of the club’s first year in the loop.
The Otters spotted the Fergus Devils Game 1 by a 4-2 score last Wednesday night before exorcising the Devils from the post season with a 4-3 overtime win on Friday at the Don Lough Arena and a hard-fought 2-1 series clincher on the road Sunday.
Friday’s win was the first time in six games Huntsville had defeated the Devils.
“It was a big success for us, to win our first playoff series in our first year,” said head coach Monty Clouthier. “We are very happy and pleased. I think everybody is pretty elated.”
Mid-season acquisition Ryan West was one of the heroes on Sunday, scoring both Huntsville goals. He leads the team in playoff scoring with six points in three games.
The line of West, Ben Muckler and Erik Macpherson were put together before the playoffs and the move paid dividends. The trio scored 15 points in the series and accounted for six of the team’s eight goals.
“This line is showing their veteran leadership,” Clouthier added.
Goalie Tye Greschuk was the other saviour for the Otters as he stopped 36 shots for the overtime win before making 39 saves in Sunday’s win.
“He played really two good solid games. He gave us a chance to win, which is what you want from your goalie,” Clouthier said.
The Otters travelled to Fergus Wednesday for Game 1 and jumped out to an early 2-0 lead on goals by Ben Muckler but were unable to hold back the Devils and lost.
Clouthier said despite the setback, the players realized that they could beat the Devils, which he said gave them poise going into Game 2.
“It takes just that one little bit of confidence and that is what turned things around. We stuck to playing our defence and stayed away from the run-and-gun. We are also staying out of the penalty box and creating our own scoring opportunities.”
On Friday night the Otters once more jumped out to a lead, this time 3-0 on goals from Jack Campbell, Macpherson and Carter Tracey. But the Devils again tied it up. The game went to overtime and Macpherson got the winner at 5:04.
“Winning in overtime was a big plus for us,” Clouthier said. “I don’t think the players ever thought it was déjà vu (losing the lead) … they realized they made some mistakes and corrected them going into the third and overtime periods.”
Now the Otters assume the role of David for a battle against Goliath, as Huntsville will meet the defending champions and reigning regular season champs, the Alliston Hornets, in a best-of-seven quarter-final series.
The Hornets finished with 72 points during the regular season, with the Otters accumulating 18 points.
Clouthier agrees with the David-versus-Goliath comparison, saying that the Otters have to play their best hockey of the season if they are to have a chance against the Hornets.
“We have to go in with confidence. If you think you are going to run (Alliston) out of the rink, that won’t happen. We have to come out every shift and win every battle with hard work.”
The series starts tonight in Alliston with Game 2 here on Friday. Game 3 is slated for Sunday back in Alliston with the fourth game back at the Lock next Wednesday night.