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Bolts in the pipeline: Erie Otters advance to the OHL Championship

Taylor Raddysh, Anthony Cirelli, and Erik Cernak are one step closer to the Memorial Cup!

Aaron Bell / OHL Images

Although the Erie Otters have been dominant in the OHL this season, many OHL pundits have picked the Owen Sound Attack to win the series. Those pundits were wrong. The Otters now have the chance to win their second J. Ross Roberston Cup as OHL Champions since moving to Erie.

Taking out the strong Owen Sound Attack in six games was challenge enough, now they have to face the white-hot Mississauga Steelheads in the finals. On paper this looks like an easy win for the Otters. The Steelheads ended the season well back of them in the standings, but if we ignore the first few months of the season, when the fish were riddled with injuries, we see one of the best teams in the CHL.

This will be a challenging series, and if any readers can go to a game. Do so. Otherwise, you can watch them on OHL Live.

Go follow BoltProspects.com for daily prospect reporting!

April 21st: Home
Taylor Raddysh (F) / Anthony Cirelli (F) / Eric Cernak (D)
W 6-1 - 2G, 1A, +3 / 1G, 1A, +2 / 0G, 0A, +3

The Erie Otters came out strong against the Owen Sound Attack in game one. From GoErie.com:

“We were ready for it,” said Otters winger Taylor Raddysh, who headlined led the offensive onslaught with two goals and an assist, while Alex DeBrincat added a goal and two assists. Joseph Murdaca stopped 27-of-28 shots to earn the win in his first career playoff start, as the Otters take a 1-0 lead in the best-of-7 series into Game 2 on Saturday at 7 p.m. in Erie.

I thought our team looked like a deer in the headlights, a little bit nervous to start,” Attack head coach Ryan McGill said. “I don’t think we recovered after that, and give credit to them. Their veteran players played a very solid and extremely fast game ... and I think we were one step behind.”

April 22nd: Home
L 4-3 OT - 0G, 1A, +1 / 0G, 0A, -1 / 0G, 0A, -2

The Attack came back in the third period, scoring the tying goal just as the third period was starting, and then it took less than five minutes of overtime to give Owen Sound the win. From GoErie.com:

Matt Schmalz made the Western Conference finals a series, as the overage winger scored 4 minutes, 22 seconds into overtime to give the Attack a 4-3 win against the Erie Otters in front of a Game 2 crowd 5,078 fans. The Otters and Attack head to Harry Lumley Bayshore Community Centre in Owen Sound, Ontario, for Game 3 tied in the best-of-7 series at a game apiece.

April 24th: Away
L 6-3 - 1G, 1A, / 0G, 1A, +1 / 0G, 0A, -1

The Otters are down in a series for the first time in these playoffs. They left home and traveled to the tiny Harry Lumley Bayshore Community Centre (whose name has more letters than the arena does seats) in Owen Sound and got doubled up by the Attack. From GoErie.com:

Erie Otters head coach Kris Knoblauch made a change in net for Game 3 on Monday.

But the return of Troy Timpano as starter didn’t change the outcome for the Otters. Owen Sound scored five goals on 27 shots against the veteran netminder in handing the Otters a 6-3 loss in front of 3,116 fans at Harry Lumley Bayshore Community Centre.

Now, Erie trails the Attack 2-1 in the best-of-7 Western Conference final series, and Knoblauch needs to choose between Timpano and Joseph Murdaca to start for the Otters in Game 4 on Wednesday at 7 p.m. in Owen Sound.

April 26th: Away
W 4-3 - 0G, 1A, +2 / 1G, 1A, +3 / 0G, 0A, +2

The Otters took game two and tied the series in a close game, scoring shorthanded in the third period to break a 3-3 tie and make this a best of three series. From GoErie.com:

Warren Foegele has been a stellar penalty killer since joining the Erie Otters in January.

The veteran winger did his job, and then some, during a key short-handed sequence in the third period of Game 4 of the OHL’s Western Conference finals Wednesday, capped by a breakaway goal that sealed a 4-3 win against Owen Sound in front of 3,266 fans at Harry Lumley Bayshore Community Centre. The Otters returned home having evened the best-of-7 series at two games apiece.

Game 5 of what is now a best-of-3 series for the Wayne Gretzky Trophy is set for Friday at 7 p.m. at Erie Insurance Arena. It could have been an elimination game, if not for Foegele’s goal with 9 minutes, 57 seconds left in the game, and a strong bounce-back effort from Troy Timpano (27 saves on 30 shots).

April 28th: Home
W 4-2 - 1G, 0A / 0G, 2A, +1 / 0G, 1A, +1

The Otters fought hard and won what turned out to be their final home game of the series. With each Bolts prospect contributing to the win, the Otters went to Owen Sound on the verge of winning the West. From GoErie.com:

Gera Poddubnyi was in the right place at the perfect time — twice — for the Erie Otters, and he didn’t need a visa to get there.

After spending the first two rounds dealing with immigration issues that took him home to Russia and back, the rookie winger was where he needed to be Friday — on the Erie Insurance Arena ice scoring the two most important goals of his first OHL season.

“I’ve finally adapted now,” Poddubnyi said, referring to feeling comfortable with playoff hockey, and excited about playing a key role in a 4-2 Game 5 win Friday in front of 5,115 fans at Erie Insurance Arena that moved the Otters within one win of their second Western Conference championship in the past three years and third in franchise history.

April 30th: Away
W 7-2 - 0G, 0A, +1 / 3G, 1A, +4 / No Points

Anthony Cirelli had more point sin this game than the entire Owen Sound team. Pretty impressive, but that’s the kind of play the Otters wanted from the 2015 Memorial Cup Champion. From GoErie.com:

Anthony Cirelli led the way in the series-clinching contest with three goals and an assist, while Dylan Strome (two goals, assist) and Raddysh (goal, two assists) contributed three points apiece. The game shifted in Erie’s favor on Raddysh’s tiebreaking goal late in a 5-minute power play 2 minutes, 56 seconds into the middle period. A match penalty for slew-footing that ended Attack captain and No. 1 defenseman Santino Centorame’s day led to the extended opportunity with the man advantage.

“I thought we had control of the first period,” said Attack head coach Ryan McGill, whose club had an early 1-0 lead. “We took a needless penalty that obviously put our best defenseman out of the game, and it’s hard to recover after that. Give (the Otters) full credit. They took advantage of the opportunity. They were opportunists tonight for sure, and that’s the game and the series.”