ERIE, Pa. - The Otters finished a third straight non-playoff season on a high note, using a strong offensive performance to beat the playoff-bound Guelph Storm 7-5 at Tullio Arena Saturday night.
Today, the Otters (18-46-2-2) will watch the OHL scoreboard to see how Sudbury fares in its season finale in Ottawa today. The Otters have 40 points, one ahead of the Wolves (17-45-2-3) in the chase for the No. 1 pick in the 2008 OHL Priority Selection. If the Wolves win, the Otters receive the top choice. If the Wolves lose, they secure the pick. An overtime or shootout loss creates a tiebreaker situation.
But for now, the Otters will enjoy their season-ending victory.
The Otters snapped the scoreless tie on center Zack Torquato's 25th goal of the season 12:14 into the opening period. Torquato then assisted on Nick Palmieri's goal 1:49 into the second.
But the Otters allowed each one-goal lead to evaporate quickly. Guelph centre Harrison Reed scored on the power play to tie the score at one, with 1:04 left in the first. Anthony Nigro scored 1:01 after Palmieri's go-ahead goal.
Thirty-two seconds later, the Storm took their first lead of the game on Matt Kennedy's power-play goal. But Guelph's lead lasted less than five minutes, as rookie winger Shawn Szydlowski scored his ninth of the season off assists from Ryan O'Reilly and Sean Jones.
But the offensive onslaught was far from over.
Otters forward Justin Hodgman's team-leading 36th goal of the season regained the lead at 4-3 with 8:47 left in the second. The Storm and Otters then traded goals on the same power play. Guelph's Rafael Rotter tied the score with 3:34 left in the period, 14 seconds before Hodgman's fourth short-handed goal of the season handed the Otters a 5-4 lead. The Otters finished the year with 17 short-handed goals.
The teams combined for seven second-period goals on 26 shots.
Erie winger Kelly Geoffrey and Guelph's Nigro exchanged goals in the opening 3:04 of the third, which left the Otters with a 6-5 lead. Geoffrey's second goal of the period sealed the win with 2:58 left.
Hodgman and Geoffrey led the Otters with two goals and an assist apiece. Torquato had a goal and two assists. Kennedy had two goals and an assist for the Storm, while Rotter had a goal and two assists.
Rookie goaltenders Shane Owen and Jaroslav Janus split time in net for the Otters. Owen, who earned the start, stopped 16-of-19 shots before being replaced by Janus midway through the second. Janus stopped nine of 11 shots to earn the win.
The Storm (34-25-5-4) earn the fifth seed in the Western Conference playoffs and will face No. 4 London in the first round.