Coming into this semifinal is quite the story, a revenge match if you will. The Erie Otters and Saint John Sea Dogs have already met once in this tournament, with Erie taking a record-breaking 12-5 victory over the Sea Dogs. This game was going to be a challenge no matter who won, and neither team disappointed.
The first period started off quietly, with the Otters and the Sea Dogs trading end-to-end plays and penalties in the first half. The Sea Dogs seemed to have made some adjustments, keeping pace with the Otters dominant play continued from their first game.
Just under the halfway point, Darren Raddysh received a long pass off the rush from Warren Foegele (Carolina Hurricanes) and with the spin-off move, tucked it in on the forehand to put Erie up 1-0. Saint John answered not long after, Joe Veleno batted a floating puck out of the air and past Timpano to tie it 1-1 for the Sea Dogs.
Erie found their footing in the beginning of the second period, changing the tide back into their favor. Saint John’s main problem this tournament has been penalties and this game was no different. The Sea Dogs found themselves in the box again halfway through the second and the Otters capitalized on the opportunity, Taylor Raddysh (Tampa Bay Lightning) put Erie up 2-1 with his 10th point of the tournament off a rebound shot from Alex DeBrincat (Blackhawks).
Taylor Raddysh almost had his second of the night not long after, but the goal was waved off because of a delayed penalty. Although Saint John made a few more trips to the box, they tied it up once again just before the end of the second, Julien Gauthier (Hurricanes) with a shot in tight to make it 2-2.
Penalty troubles struck the Sea Dogs once again right off the start of the third and the Otters used it to their advantage, Dylan Strome (Coyotes) scored with a beautiful inside-out move and release to send it in five-hole and put Erie in the lead again 3-2.
Less than a minute later, Erie found the back of the net again, German Poddubnyi (2017 NHL entry draft eligible) from the slot off a pass from Ivan Lodnia (2017 NHL entry draft eligible) extended the Otters lead to 4-2. At this point, the Sea Dogs seemed to have lost all momentum and Erie just looked like they were always one step ahead of the play.
Yet another penalty for Saint John put Erie on their dangerous power play once again and they capitalized, Taylor Raddysh of a rebound shot of DeBrincat’s to get his official second goal of the game making it 5-2 Erie.
Saint John had one last rally, with Thomas Chabot (Ottawa Senators) cutting the Otters lead to 5-3, but the burst of energy didn’t last long. With 2:17 left, the Sea Dogs pulled goalie Callum Booth (Carolina) for the extra attacker, which proved to be a terrible mistake. Less than 2 minutes later, Warren Foegele scored into the empty net, sealing Erie’s win at 6-3.
Dylan Strome finished the game with 1 G, 6 SOG, and a faceoff win percentage of 65% (20/31).
With the win, the Erie Otters advance to the Memorial Cup Final where they will play their OHL Western Conference foe the Windsor Spitfires for the trophy.
This will be the first all OHL Memorial Cup Final since the Peterborough Petes played the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds in 1993. The last Memorial Cup Final to have two teams from the same league was the Vancouver Giants vs Medicine Hat Tigers (WHL) in 2007.
You can watch Dylan Strome and the Erie Otters take on the Windsor Spitfires in the Memorial Cup Final live on NHL Network on Sunday, May 29th, at 4 PM PST.
Post-Game Q & A with Dylan Strome
Q: One game away from the ultimate goal, take us through it.
Strome: Feels kind of surreal, we've had this date on the board for a long time now. It's been a long time coming and there's a lot of work left. We have had 5-28-17 on the board for a long time and it's the last thing we look at before we go out onto the ice.
Q: Fitting that it will be against the Spitfires? [The Otters opened the season in Windsor on September 22, 2016]
Strome: They earned it, well, I mean they played well this tournament. It's fortunate for them they're the host team. They played extremely well to get to this point.
Q: Tell us about your goal.
Strome: I had to hold the line and Alex [DeBrincat] was bringing it up, he gave it to me and the D kind of stepped up. I just pushed it around them, uh I kind of fanned on it. I knew to try and go low, fortunate enough he kind of missed it.
Q: How different was this game [than Monday]?
Strome: It was a lot different, then we had a lot of odd-man rushes, and tonight we probably had 2 or 3. It was a completely different. Credit to them, they battled all year, they were champions of their league, they had the best playoff record of any league.
Q: It seems like all season this team had a third-period push.
Strome: The coach had a really good pep talk for us at intermission. He was going around the room and telling each of us what we need to do, and what we're good at and what we've been doing our whole career. It fired me up, it fired a lot of us up. We scored about two minutes in.
Q: That's out of character for Kris [Knoblauch, Erie Otters Head Coach] isn't it?
Strome: Very out of character. He's usually pretty calm and pretty mellow and easy going. He was kinda, he's never been this far, he was fired up, he wanted us to do good.
Q: What did he say to you?
Strome: He said ‘Stromer, do what you do and put one in the net’. He said to T [Taylor Raddysh] ‘get to the front of the net’, and then T got one in the third. That's why he's the best coach in the CHL.
[El seldo then left the exchange and knocked over the plant he was hiding behind, in case any of you wanted to know.]