Ex-Otter returns to JLC with Spirit

RYAN PYETTE, FREE PRESS SPORTS REPORTER

, Last Updated: 12:46 PM ET

Plenty has happened since star forward Ryan O'Marra brought his Erie Otters to London last Friday to be blitzed 9-1 by the Knights.

A week later, the member of last year's gold-medal winning Canadian world junior hockey team was back at the John Labatt Centre after being traded to top-notch Saginaw for former Stratford Culliton Zach Torquato and a couple of high draft picks in the blockbuster move.

O'Marra, who had been Erie's captain, had played more than 200 games in his four years with the Otters. Not many were as demoralizing as last week's waxing.

"I have a lot of friends going to Western and no one wants to lose 9-1 here," the 19-year-old Mississauga native said. "It ended up being my second-last game (with the Otters). I was happy I was able to get a goal and assist in my final game at home. Erie is rebuilding, but they always made it fun to come to the rink, despite the situation.

"They gave me a shot to win (with Saginaw). I haven't had that feeling coming into London in a long time."

In a way, O'Marra feels fortunate to be back in London at all after becoming involved in a major car crash while driving from Erie to Saginaw Wednesday to join his new club.

"I was driving on Highway 23 about an hour-and-a-half from Saginaw and there was a four-car pileup right in front of me," he said. "It was scary. I saw a car in mid-air. I ended up hitting a car and going into the guardrail. My whole front grille was smashed and I lost a taillight, but I'm going to be able to drive it, because there wasn't much else damaged.

"I think back now and I was lucky I was in the left lane and there wasn't a car in the right lane, or it could have been worse."

Shaken but uninjured, the New York Islanders prospect arrived at the arena five minutes before warmup and made his Spirit debut against the Soo Greyhounds.

"The team's at the top of the league, so it's pretty good," O'Marra said. "With ice-time, I don't know how many minutes I'm playing, but it's less than Erie. There, I played 30 minutes, but I couldn't go all out because you had to conserve. Here, if you're on the top three lines, you expect to play 20, 25 minutes."

O'Marra leaves no doubt Erie's struggles the last few years are due in part to playing in the most competitive division in junior hockey -- the OHL's Midwest division.

"I came into the league just as London was going into its heyday," he said. "Guelph won a championship. Kitchener was always good and we played them eight times a year. Owen Sound was tough. We would've definitely had a better record if we didn't have to play in that division."

O'Marra, who expects to be a leader as one of the returnees on the Canadian junior team at Christmas, will play in the ADT Canada-Russia Challenge for the third straight year Monday.

"I think I'm driving down with Tom (Pyatt) and Pat (McNeill) this weekend and staying at Pat's house in Strathroy before heading to Oshawa this week," he said.


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