The Erie Otters have punched their ticket to the Mastercard Memorial Cup Final and a big rematch.
A four-goal third period by the Otters lifted them to a 6-3 win over the Saint John Sea Dogs in the semifinal on Friday night at the WFCU Centre.
When these teams met in the round-robin, Erie put on a historic performance. They set the tournament team record for goals in a game (12) and points by a player in a game (Strome, 7). Friday night was Saint John’s chance to prove that was a fluke.
The opening 20 minutes saw a slower offensive start than the last one, with the teams playing cautiously. Just five minutes into the game, Simon Bourque slid the puck between Otters’ goaltender Troy Timpano’s legs. It sat in the crease for a few seconds until Otters’ forward Alex DeBrincat found it and slid it to safety.
The scoreless game wouldn’t last much longer, though. Just before the midway point of the frame, Otters’ defenceman Darren Raddysh got the puck in front of Sea Dogs’ goaltender Callum Booth, went backhand-to-forehand, and put it over Booth’s glove. Erie was up 1-0. Four minutes later, Saint John found their answer. Sea Dogs’ forward Joey Veleno batted a rebound out of mid-air and under Timpano to tie it up at one.
Erie and Saint John remained deadlocked until the midway point of the second period. With the Otters on the power play, Taylor Raddysh put home a shot from the high slot to give Erie the 2-1 lead.
Before the period would end, though, the Sea Dogs had a power play of their own. Julian Gauthier stood in front of Timpano and ripped home a pass to make it a 2-2 game after 40. While it was tied, the Otters outshot the Sea Dogs 17-4 in the period. They were gaining strength.
Otters’ Offence Unloads
The famous Otters’ offence took control. While Booth did everything he could to keep the Sea Dogs in it, the Otters were too much. At 2:38 of the third, Dylan Strome put a wrist shot past Booth from near the slot put the Otters up by one. Just over a minute later, German Poddubnyi took a pass from Ivan Lodnia, walked into the slot and beat Booth cleanly to the blocker side. Erie now had a two-goal cushion.
The Otters weren’t finished. At 12:30, while on the power play, a scramble in front of Booth saw a loose puck go to DeBrincat. He finished it off to give Erie the 5-2 lead. That was the dagger the Otters’ needed.
Sea Dogs’ defenceman Thomas Chabot and Otters’ forward Warren Foegele added one for each side before the final buzzer sounded. While the shots were tied at 10 in the period, the Otters’ four-goal outburst was too much for Saint John. The Otters skate away with the 6-3 win in front of 5,410 fans. Saint John’s tournament comes to an end.
Two Teams, One Trophy
With the win, the Otters have punched their ticket to the MasterCard Memorial Cup Final on Sunday against Windsor. During the round robin, the teams met in a classic battle of OHL powerhouses. Windsor got the early lead and skated to the 4-2 win. The Otters, though, weren’t happy with their work ethic early in that game.
Expect a close, offensive battle between two teams that know each other very well. This may come down to which goaltender – Timpano, or Spitfires’ Michael DiPietro – has the mental and physical edge.
As of Friday afternoon, the game is sold out. It’s one of the hottest tickets in Windsor and a talk of the town. With a capacity of roughly 6,600, it’s sure to be the loudest, most energetic crowd of the season. This is what both teams have been waiting a long time for and it’s likely to be a CHL classic.
Otters – D. Raddysh (3) – Assists: W. Foegele, T. Fergus – 9:56
Sea Dogs – J. Veleno (3) – Assists: S. Smallman, J. Gauthier – 14:10
Otters – T. Raddysh (4) – Assists: A. Cirelli, A. DeBrincat – 10:57 – PPG
Sea Dogs – J. Gauthier (2) – Assists: M. Joseph, M. Highmore – 19:18 – PPG
Otters – D. Strome (6) – Assist: A. DeBrincat – 2:38
Otters – G. Poddubnyi (1) – Assist: I. Lodnia – 3:45
Otters – T. Raddysh (5) – Assists: A. Cirelli, A. DeBrincat – 12:31 – PPG
Sea Dogs – T. Chabot (2) – Assists: J. Gauthier, C. Stewart – 16:28
Otters – W. Foegele (1) – Assist: D. Raddysh – 19:26- EN
I’m a resident of Windsor, ON and a graduate of St Clair College Journalism and New Media program as well as the University of Windsor Communication, Media, and Film program. I’ve been a junior hockey fan (specifically the Windsor Spitfires) for 30-years and have written about/photographed junior hockey since about 2005.