What Made the Difference in the Otters' Cup Win
Erie team ends its championship drought
That's how long Otters fans have been waiting for the J. Ross Robertson Cup to return to Erie.
On May 12th, the Otters won the OHL championship for the second time in franchise history. Erie Insurance Arena was packed as the Otters hoisted the cup following an exciting win over the Mississauga Steelheads 4-3 in overtime.
Game five of the championship series was nothing short of a nailbiter when Tampa Bay prospect Taylor Raddysh scored the third goal of his hat-trick night to tie the game at three apiece with 1:15 remaining in the third period. Fellow Lightning prospect Anthony Cirelli buried the game-winning goal 2:41 into the OT period, securing the cup for the Otters.
"The goal was pretty crazy. My heart was pounding the whole overtime. When they scored I was so excited that all I remember was yelling," explained Otters fan, Brandon Soto, who attended the game and recalled how exhilarating the final minutes were.
"I was just in shock," said Otters veteran forward and captain, Kyle Pettit. "We've been so close for so many years, to finally win feels amazing."
The Otters made Canadian Hockey League history in 2015-16 by completing their third consecutive 50-win season. They added to the record this year, finishing with exactly 50 regular season wins.
The Otters have been near the top of the league for the past few years. A championship seemed to be right around the corner, although many thought it would come from the help of 2015 number one NHL draft pick, Connor McDavid. But McDavid left for his new home in Edmonton following the NHL draft. Even with some key players remaining, Erie fans were less than optimistic about the post-McDavid Otters.
Who knew the best was yet to come?
This season was proof that no individual player (no matter how Gretzky-like) can make a championship team alone.
Main contributors this season included forwards Alex DeBrincat and Taylor Raddysh, who finished as the top two scorers in the OHL. Darren Raddysh tallied 81 points, earning his spot as the highest scoring defenseman.
Pettit, in his fifth year with the Otters, believes that the experience gained from falling short in recent years is what helped his team to victory.
"We had the kind of experience of being in the finals and that helped us," he said. "A lot of our team was in it when we lost to Oshawa in the finals two years ago. Nothing was new for us so we knew going into this what we were expecting."
The Otters are now competing for a chance to bring the Canadian Hockey League's Memorial Cup to Erie for the first time ever.
"Obviously we had fun and enjoyed our OHL win, but none of us are satisfied yet," said Pettit. "We have to focus on playing like we have been playing and hopefully we can win."
The Memorial Cup tournament takes place in Windsor, Ontario. The Otters will play in the round-robin tournament against other CHL champions the Seattle Thunderbirds of the Western Hockey League, the Saint John Sea Dogs of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, and the hosting Windsor Spitfires.
Kristen S. Swann can be reached at email@example.com.