Tonight, the Canadian Hockey League (CHL) 2016-2017 season will end with its final game, the grand finale of the 99th edition of the 2017 MasterCard Memorial Cup. A long-awaited final between the Ontario Hockey League champions, the Erie Otters and the tournament hosts, the Windsor Spitfires.
This is a second clash in this tournament between the two teams, the first duel having been won by the Spitfires.
After completing the preliminary round with a 2-1 record, the Otters had to defeat the Saint John Sea Dogs in the semi-final game to reach the MasterCard Memorial Cup final for the first time in the team’s history. Erie was part off the Memorial Cup tournament in 2002 but had not been able to qualify for the final.
The Otters doubled the Sea Dogs by the 6-3 mark, sending a second team on vacation, as the Thunderbirds were eliminated by the Sea Dogs one day earlier.
Highlights of the meeting are available here.
“It feels kind of surreal that we’re there,” said Otters captain Dylan Strome who scored a goal in the win. “We’ve had 5-28-17 on the board in the dressing room for a long time. It’s kind of been our thing that we look at before we go onto the ice every time and that’s what we’re here for.”
The Otters will have to be ready for this second match, with the Spitfires taking the last game to a 4-2 count last Wednesday.
“We’ve got to leave it all out there,” said veteran forward Anthony Cirelli who scored the Memorial Cup-winning overtime goal for the Oshawa Generals in 2015. “It’s one game. It’s what we work hard all summer for, what we work all year in the bag skates and hard workouts for – to be in this position and now we have to give it our all.”
The most valuable player in the OHL playoffs, Warren Foegele, was of the same opinion as his teammate.
“We’ve played a lot of hockey, but there’s only one game left so we might as well just put it out all on the line,” said veteran winger and OHL Playoff MVP Warren Foegele.
“We have to come out hot and play the full game,” he added. “We can’t take any breaks. Momentum shifts are part of any game, but we need to do our part and come out strong off the start.”
This victory would be a first title of the MasterCard Memorial Cup for the Otters. In addition, it would be the fifth championship won by an American franchise in the history of the championship, a first since the Spokane Chiefs in 2008.
Qualified for the final since their last game of the preliminary round, the Spitfires could become the second team since the Shawinigan Cataractes, in 2012, to win the MasterCard Memorial Cup, as hosts of the tournament.
To confirm their presence in the final, the Spits overcame the same Otters by the 4-2 mark in the final game of the round robin, to finish with the best overall record. The team stood behind Montreal Canadiens prospect Jeremiah Addison, where he scored a hat trick to propel his team to victory.
To see the highlights, click here.
NHL draft prospect, Michael DiPietro, is turning heads. Since the start of the tournament, the 17-year-old goaltender is 3-0-0, with a goals-against average of 1.50 and a .939 save percentage, the leader among the other goaltenders in each category.
“He’s been outstanding for us,” said Spitfires fourth-year veteran Aaron Luchuk. “He’s our backbone and has continually bailed us out whenever we’ve had defensive breakdowns. Mikey is a big part of our team and we’ll need him on Sunday.”
A sold out crowd is expected tonight.
“I think both teams are going to be really excited,” said Spitfires forward Jeremy Bracco who has five points (2-3–5) over three contests. “We’re playing for the most prized possession of junior hockey in Canada so I’d expect both teams to bring their best stuff.”
“Playing at home in front of these fans is a thrill and to see that the game is sold out already is pretty special.”
With a victory, the Spitfires would win a third MasterCard Memorial Cup championship, a first since 2010. They would join WHL’s Kamloops Blazers for the same number of titles.
Final game will be broadcast on Sportsnet and TVA Sports, with the match set at 7:00 pm. You can also watch it on CHLlive.com.
A text by Frédéric Damiani