ERIE, PA -- Blue Jackets fans can smell a good game of hockey from 240 miles away, particularly if the game features a pair of prospects with loads of potential.
A group of Blue Jackets supporters were among the nearly 3,000 fans in attendance Saturday inside the renovated Erie Insurance Arena.
BlueJackets.com was there to see the hometown Otters take on the Oshawa Generals in an Ontario Hockey League game. In addition to being attracted to a great hockey venue, which is still in the midst of a $47 million makeover, Blue Jackets fans were excited about the opportunity to see second-round draft pick (2011) Boone Jenner take the ice as the captain of the Generals.
At 19 years old, Jenner has 33 points through 22 games this season, including 17 goals. That’s following a 49-point campaign in 2011-12 playing for the Generals over a 43-game season that was shortened due to injury.
There was an instant appreciation for the city of Erie and its hockey-savvy fan base. The arena started filling up, and the intensity level began to rise a full hour before the puck dropped.
The Otters organization treated the BlueJackets.com contingent in a first-class manner, making us feel at home before we even entered the building.
When the players took the ice, we made our way down to ice level to start taking pictures of Boone. It was cool being able to see one of the most dominant players in the OHL leading a team, and obviously being the signal caller of a young hockey club. Jenner’s teammates clearly look to him as their leader - that was evident from the start.
The Generals started the game by dominating. They drew first blood on a power play goal, and Jenner stood out like a Michigan fan in Block O. He was all over the ice. It was obvious that the Otters’ strategy was to stop Jenner and they keyed on his line from the outset.
Through two periods, the Generals continued to control the ice. They led in shots on goal 27-12 but they were losing where it mattered most - on the scoreboard - 3-1.
Each Otter goal was celebrated as if the clock had just hit midnight on New Year’s Eve. The noise was intense. A large tarp that was hung to block ongoing construction at the arena waved from the energy being created by the Erie fans.
Otters goalie Oscar Dansk faced 50 shots on goal for the game and made 49 saves. It often felt like Dansk and Jenner were men among boys on the ice.
After the Otters locked down a 6-1 victory, we headed to the locker room for post-game comments.
Jackets TV secured a quick interview with Jenner, and you could clearly see his poise and natural leadership. He was happy to answer questions and was easy to be around.
He has the makings of a future fan favorite in Columbus. It’s as if you can already hear “Booooooone” chants echoing in Nationwide Arena.