Huntsville Otters playoff run begins at Canada Summit Centre tonight

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After 40 gruelling games, hundreds of hours of travel, and countless days spent practicing, fighting and battling the other top players in the GBMOJCHL, the Huntsville Jr. C Otters achieved their regular season objective of finishing in the top two teams in the league.

The finish came right down to the wire, with a dramatic third period in their final game against the Midland Flyers, where after finding themselves down 5-3 with less than eight minutes to play, newly acquired Tanner Hamilton scored twice on the powerplay, 42 seconds apart, to tie the game and give the Otters a much needed point in the standings. Huntsville finished one point ahead of the Flyers, who would have claimed second overall had they won the game.

While the disparity between the Otters and the first-place Alliston Hornets, who have won the league championship in seven of the past eight seasons, was beyond what anyone might have guessed before the year started, the Huntsville squad showed true resilience in coming together as a team to rise above the rest of the competition, with several players putting together incredible individual efforts this season.

16-year-old Andy Baker finished second in overall scoring with 62 points (29 goals and 33 assists) in 39 games, resulting in the North Bay Battalion draft pick being selected as the league’s Rookie of the Year. Baker also scored more powerplay points than any other player, with 27 of his points coming on the man-advantage.

Right behind Baker was team captain Jake McIntyre, whose career-best 55 points saw the veteran forward finish sixth overall in league scoring, and second overall on the powerplay. In his third year with the Otters, McIntrye was an integral part of the team’s offense, scoring a league-high five game-winning goals while also providing invaluable leadership and support to his teammates on and off the ice.

On the Otters blueline, Kyle Burns took home honours as the GBMOJCHL’s top defenseman, notching 45 points and adding 76 penalty minutes to finish a staggering 13 points ahead of second-place defender Mitch Livingston. Huntsville’s Jared Stevens ranked fifth among league blueliners with 24 points.

In goal, Connor Christansen finished fifth in goals against average and save percentage, and third in total saves. Nathan Antonides, who was added to the roster late in the season and only had five starts for Huntsville, finished second in the league in shutouts with three. If he had enough starts to qualify, the talented netminder would have also finished first in save percentage and second in goals against average.

As impressive as the individual accolades are, it’s all out the window at this point in the year. With the post-season beginning tonight, the Otters have set their sights on a loftier goal: a deep playoff run beginning against the seventh place Erin Shamrocks. The Otters are 3-2-0 against the Shamrocks this season, outscoring the competition 21-16. Puck drops on game one of the series at 8:00 pm tonight at the Canada Summit Centre.

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