Photo Credit: @AshleyKaiserTV JET24 Action Sports
The Niagara IceDogs travelled to Erie on the final Saturday night of the 2023 calendar to face geographical rival Otters in the fourth contest between the two clubs this season. Coming into this contest, both teams were deadlocked at 1-1-1 for the season series. The Otters dawned their throwback Erie Panthers jerseys, honouring the last professional hockey team to play in Erie, PA. The Panthers final season was back in 1996.
Former IceDog Pano Fimis came in having potted 11 points (3 goals, 8 assists) in the month of December, stepping up in Carey Terrance (Anaheim Ducks 2023 2nd round pick) while he's been away for Team USA at the World Junior Hockey Championship tournament.
Niagara were looking to bounce back after a tough eight goal loss in Owen Sound on Thursday Night. They would be without three key centre's for the contest in Alex Assadourian, Gavin Bryant, and Michael Podolioukh who were all Day-To-Day.
Niagara IceDogs Lines vs ER
The Otters opened the scoring at 12:13 of the opening period as Brett Bresette finished off the play by wristing one past Owen Flores to get the Erie crowd to their feet. On Niagara's second man advantage of the contest after Artem Frolov drew a high sticking penalty, the IceDogs would turn it over in their own zone and Malcolm Spence would walk in on a breakaway, going blocker side on Flores for the shorthanded goal.
With the double-minor coming to a close Ivan Galiyanov found Mike Levin, who got it over to Ethan Czata for the goal with two seconds remaining on the powerplay, which got Niagara. A big goal before the end of the first period for the visitors.
A big save in the middle period as Brody Crane was hooked with no call, before Pano Fimis was sprung on a breakaway but was stopped by his former teammate Owen Flores, keeping the game 2-1 for the time being.
Niagara would have a few breakdowns in transition and the Otters would take advantage on a two on one, finished off by Wesley Royston for his first goal of the season, which extended Erie's lead to 3-1. The IceDogs would get a break late in the middle period as a bouncing puck in front of Gaudreau was redirected by Andrew Wycisk past the goal line. That goal would help Niagara be within one going into the second intermission.
Erie would open up the final period by extending their lead thanks to a stretch pass from Matthew Schaefer to Ondrej Molnar who buried the third goal blocker side on Owen Flores this evening, giving the home side a 4-2 lead. Bronson Ride was hauled down just before the goal and was not pleased with the official in that end of the rink for what he thought was a missed call that led to the goal the other way.
In the ladder part of the final period, it was Kevin He with a sharp angle shot from the right corner that went top shelf over Gaudreau with not much to shoot at, which got the IceDogs within a goal. The second time He has scored from that angle this season.
Erie would respond once again as Malcolm Spence cut down the right wing and got a shot off on Flores which was stopped before Brett Bressette pounced on the rebound for his second of the game, giving the Otters a 5-3 lead.
The IceDogs would be awarded a late powerplay with 1:51 to play down a pair and would call their timeout before going 6on4 but it was Malcolm Spence sealing it with his second shorthanded goal of the game, sending the Erie faithful home happy with a 6-3 victory. Owen Flores stops 40 in the loss, as the IceDogs will return home to play the Guelph Storm on New Years Eve night to close out 2023.
NIAGARA EMPLOYMENT HELP CENTRE GOAL SCORERS
0-1 ER: Brett Bressette (8) Assists: Owain Johnston, Malcolm Spence 1ST PERIOD
0-2 ER: Malcolm Spence (7) Assist: Bruce McDonald SH 1ST PERIOD
1-2 NIAG: Ethan Czata (2) Assists: Mike Levin, Ivan Galiyanov PP 1ST PERIOD
1-3 ER: Wesley Royston (1) Assists: Brett Hammond, Nathan Sauder 2ND PERIOD
2-3 NIAG: Andrew Wycisk (4) Assists: Mathieu Paris, Mike Levin 2ND PERIOD
2-4 ER: Ondrej Molnar (11) Assist: Matthew Schaefer 3RD PERIOD
3-4 NIAG: Kevin He (17) Assist: Ryan Roobroeck 3RD PERIOD
3-5 ER: Brett Bressette (9) Assists: Malcolm Spence, Kaleb Smith 3RD PERIOD
3-6 ER: Malcolm Spence (8) Assists: Kaleb Smith Empty Net 3RD PERIOD
NIAGARA GOLF LOUNGE THREE STARS OF THE GAME
1ST STAR: Malcolm Spence (2 Goals, 2 Assists +4)
2ND STAR: Brett Bressette (2 Goals +2)
3RD STAR: Owen Flores (40 saves)