When HockeyNow published its Memorial Cup issue last week, we did a panel where four of us made our predictions for the tournament results. Three of us picked the Spitfires to finish last, with one of us figuring them for third.
The Windsor Spitfires are one win away from a storybook ending at the Mastercard Memorial Cup. While the junior hockey world questioned what they’d be able to do coming out of a six-week layoff after they were eliminated in the first round of the OHL playoffs, the Memorial Cup hosts have defied most expectations by defeating all three league champions in the round-robin.
Michael DiPietro is more of the extrovert while his Windsor Spitfires teammate Gabe Vilardi seems more subdued. But they’re both all business during the Mastercard Memorial Cup as the Spitfires aim to book their ticket to the final with a win over the Erie Otters in a battle of two undefeated teams to conclude the round-robin.
Dylan Strome couldn’t help but interrupt a reporter’s question after he was notified of the OHL’s recent dominance at the Mastercard Memorial Cup.
Maybe it’s a coincidence that Dylan Strome, Mathew Barzal and Thomas Chabot are all at the Mastercard Memorial Cup playing prominent roles for their teams.
Sean Day has truly benefited from a change of scenery with the Mastercard Memorial Cup host Windsor Spitfires. In three seasons with the Mississauga Steelheads, it was clear that he had a lot of talent, but he struggled to find his identity as a defenceman and faced a lot of scrutiny from many who didn’t feel he lived up to the “exceptional status” label he was given in 2013.
Judging from the Windsor Spitfires performance on opening night of the 2017 MasterCard Memorial Cup, their 44 day layoff from the CHL postseason suited them just fine. On April 4, Windsor was eliminated from the OHL playoffs after losing in seven games to the London Knights.
After 68 games (72 in the WHL), four playoff rounds, countless hours spent at practices and on the bus, it all comes down to this. The Erie Otters, Saint John Sea Dogs and Seattle Thunderbirds all captured championships in their respective leagues and will push a little further through four to six games in an effort to claim junior hockey supremacy at the Memorial Cup.
Robert Thomas has inched his way up the rankings all year and finds himself in the top 25 with just over a month to draft day. Moving 43 spots since December where he debuted at #64, the London Knights high-scoring forward has made the steady rise to now sit at #21.
The Windsor Spitfires are underdogs at this year’s Memorial Cup, but the team has plenty of weapons at its disposal – and a tank full of gas. The City of Windsor last hosted the Memorial Cup in 1981, back when it was held in neutral cities. Since the format was restructured in 1983, the Spitfires have played in the tournament three times – advancing to the final on each occasion. They won twice, in 2009 and 2010.
The Erie Otters have finally found that winning formula. Captain Dylan Strome and OHL defenceman/overage player of the year Darren Raddysh have both been part of the Otters since 2013 and leading into this year, they were part of some very strong teams.
Major junior coaches demand a lot of their players and three teams delivered in a big way with championship seasons. They’ll now join the host Windsor Spitfires at this year’s Memorial Cup, where it’s up to the coaches to guide the way as everyone gives an extra push towards national glory.
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