Both teams that flirted with season-long supremacy in the weekly CHL Top-10 Rankings, the OHL champion Erie Otters and QMJHL champion Saint John Sea Dogs go to battle tonight in Windsor, a game that will feature six players from Canada’s National Junior Team.
The Otters feature Arizona Coyotes prospect and captain Dylan Strome and a pair of Tampa Bay Lightning prospects in versatile big-game performer Anthony Cirelli and power winger Taylor Raddysh.
Across the ice, the Sea Dogs are built around world class Ottawa Senators first round pick Thomas Chabot on the blue line, 6-foot-4, 225Ib. Carolina Hurricanes prospect Julien Gauthier on the wing and energetic flank Mathieu Joseph, a pick of the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Both finishing the regular season with over 100 points in the standings, the heavily favourited Otters and Sea Dogs had big performances from all six World Junior competitors en route to league championships.
“We all hung out a lot for about a month at World Juniors so I think we’re all looking forward to the game,” said Joseph in the lead up to Game 4 of the annual national championship.”
“It’s the beauty of the Memorial Cup to be able to compare your team to theirs, to see the different type of play and strategy from team to team.”
The Sea Dogs began the tournament with a hard fought 3-2 loss against the host Windsor Spitfires on Friday, a game where they nearly came all the way back from a 3-0 deficit before they were beat by the buzzer.
Chabot, who regularly sees 30 minutes a night on the Saint John blue line, thinks highly of his opponents heading into tonight’s matchup.
“They’re great players, not only because they got drafted high, but they proved a lot of things in junior,” he said of Strome, Cirelli and Raddysh. “Having the chance to play with them at World Juniors was a privilege and I know what type of game they play.
“I’m going to be the one who probably has to defend them during the game so I have a bit of an idea what to expect.”
Strome, who was teammates with Chabot on the National Junior Team both this past December in Toronto and Montreal and the one before in Helsinki, Finland, knows he’ll have a tough assignment against his former teammate.
“I played with Chabby two years in a row so I know first hand how good he is,” Strome noted. “He was one of my closest buddies at the tournament so going up against him is going to be interesting.”
“It’s going to be a lot of fun to play against all of them,” added Anthony Cirelli.
“We’re all business though. Everyone is here to win so the friendships will be put on hold.”
The Otters try and follow up a 4-2 win over Canadian World Junior teammate Mathew Barzal and the Seattle Thunderbirds on Saturday, looking to improve to 2-0 and effectively erase any chance of a tie-breaking scenario on Thursday.
The Sea Dogs look to avoid an 0-2 start. A win would put them right back in the thick of things headed into their second of back-to-back games against Seattle on Tuesday.
Tonight’s action starts at 7:00pm ET/4:00pm PT, game that can be seen live across the country on Sportsnet, TVA Sports, on NHL Network in the United States as well as streaming online at CHLLIVE.com.