Five days ago, the Erie Otters and Saint John Sea Dogs face each other for the first time in team histories, and the by the end of the game, we saw three Memorial Cup records broken: Dylan Strome set a new record for most points in one game with seven, the combined score set a new record at 17, and the Otters set a record for most goals by one team with 12. Not much went in Saint John’s favour that night.
Four days ago, the Sea Dogs had a ray of sunshine come down as they eliminated the Seattle Thunderbirds from the Memorial Cup tournament, scoring seven goals against the WHL champions.
The offense between these two teams isn’t that far apart. Total goals still go in the Otters favour, 19-14, but the gap is only five. Goals against is just as close, with Erie having 11 against to Saint John’s 15. In my mind while Erie has a little better depth at forward, and Saint John has the better goal tending, the real difference between these teams is the top defencemen for Erie: Lightning prospect Erik Cernak and free agent Darren Raddysh.
These two have been the best of both worlds on the blueline for the Otters. Raddysh chips in offenisvley, hustles back quick to his own end and can control the play when things get out of hand. Erik Cernak is a wall on the blueline, not many get past him, the puck stays in the offensive zone when he’s on the point and it’s tough for people to get too close to the Otters net.
Saint John’s plan to get into this game will be line matching and keeping the top offensive line of Mathieu Joseph, Matthew Highmore, and Bokondji Imama away from those two. It will be tough as Erie tries to keep them split onto separate pairings, and since the Sea Dogs had a worse record than the Otters they’re considered the visiting team and don’t get the final line change.
The game begins with both teams playing very safely. Passes and shots, but everything being done very deliberately. Both teams were feeling each other out for the first half of the period until Darren Raddysh scored after getting a long pass from Warren Foegele
The Otters would respond five minutes later, the exceptional status player Joe Veleno ties it at one. The first period is very back and forth even between the two teams. This play would continue through the start of the second, but the tide shifted towards the Otters. Taylor Raddysh would break the tie halfway through the period:
The Otters dominate the second period after this, it ends with some controversy. Erik Cernak gets called for interference, and it’s a delayed penalty as the Sea Dogs keep possession. Tayor Raddysh shoots the puck and scores, but his touch brought on the penalty for the Otters. No goal and Cernak to the box.
Quickly after that the Sea Dogs tie the game with a powerplay goal to end the period.
Otters coach Kris Knoblach inspired his team, the second ends with shots 27-14 for Erie, Callum Booth was keeping Saint John alive.
The third is all Otters. They score two goals in the first 3:45 of the period, and Taylor Raddysh completes his phantom hat trick at the 12 minute mark. The Sea Dogs put on the pressure hard in the third period, but it’s too little too late. Thomas Chabot scores for the Sea Dogs and Foegele checks him into Erie goalie Troy Timpano, who appeared to hit his head on the cross bar. There’s a tense few minutes, but he gets up and stays in the game.
The Otters score their empty net goal and win the game 6-3. The Erie Otters will play the Windsor Spitfires Sunday night in the final game of the tournament. The Otters look to win their first Memorial Cup Championship, to go with their second OHL title.
The Saint John Sea Dogs will head home, to raise their third QMJHL championship banner. It was hard for the Sea Dogs and before the handshake head coach Terry Flynn gathered his team for once last pep talk.
Flynn spoke of this being a special team in the post game press conference:
Q: It's a new start for your team next year, with all the players leaving.|
A: That's junior hockey. There are a lot of guy who are close on this team. It’s a special group of kids. There are players who came in as kids and grew up together. They became men together.It was a great group. French Canadians, Europeans, kids from Ontario who were cut from the OHL, Maritimers. The Q is the league of second chances. We had 13 kids in college this year. Schools been a big part of our program. Kids in high school, kids in CEGEP.
Q: How was the tournament for you?
A: The fans were great, Windsor was great, the tournament was well run.
The practice schedule was shit.
Post Game Q & A’s
Q: What was it like playing in a very different game from the first match up?
A: They came out hard, we didn’t think this game would be like the last one [trails off in mumbles]
Q: One win away from the final goal. This isn’t your first time there either. Can you take us through the emotions running through your head right now?
A: Of course, I never thought I’d play in one. Just playing in the tournament is something special.
Q: A lot different dynamic with this team, take us through the 60 minutes.
A: It was a lot different than in that 12-5 win. We know that they were going to come out flying, and they did. They were hitting being physical, we had to up our intensity and match theirs and we did, in the third period we kind of took over.
Q: When you talk about the Erie Otters guys like Strome, Raddysh, and DeBrincat get mentioned, but Poddubnyi with a goal ca you tell us what they mean to the team.
A: That was a huge goal for us and the fourth line was great tonight. They were forechecking and get the puck in there. To have a fourth line, and especially a fourth line who scores, is very helpful for us.
Q: Fitting the showdown will be an OHL showcase.
A: Yeah, you want the Memorial Cup to stay in the OHL, it should be a good one.
Q: What do you take away from your only loss in the tournament (to Windsor) and apply it to Sunday?
A: We’re going to watch some video, and fix a couple things. At the end of the day we just have to worry about our team, our game.
Q:For yourself, how much have you leaned on past experience to get you through this week?
A: A lot, I’ve been there once, I’ve been letting the guys know what to expect.
Q: You talked about guys coming out big, talk about that good start to the third period.
A: That was huge for us to get two quick ones off the bat. We tried to get a goal early, and to get the first one was huge and the second really helped us.
Q: How are you going to prepare for Sunday?
A: Coming to the rink, doing some stretching, just preparing for the last game. We’ve been playing every other day so the body needs some rest. We’ll watch some video, from this game, from the last Windsor game, and mentally prepare for that night.
Q: How does it feel to be only one more game from not being blonde anymore?
A: [laughs] Pretty cool, I don’t think it looks to good for me. The moment the game is over I’m getting a hair cut.
Q: How has is been playing with your brother?
A: We sit beside each other on the bench, but not back home.
Q: Do you keep your distance in Erie?
A: A little bit, we don’t live together either. That was something the coaches wanted when I came in, they wanted me to come in by myself, and experience the OHL for myself with a different family.
Q: Is it cool for you being drafted, hearing all the free agent interest for Darren?
A: Yeah it’s pretty cool and exciting, I’m hoping for the best for him. He’s shown what he’s been able to do in the past, and one more game. He’s deserving to get that contract.
Q: Did you give him the lowdown on Tampa?
A: [laughs] A little bit, but that’s not my job.
Saint John Sea Dogs
Q: Losing in the semi-finals after going up 16-2 in the playoffs, how was [the tournament]for you?
A: We battled every night, and uh.....some times things don’t go the way you want...
Q: Take us through you’re experience from this tournament?
A: I think it was a great tournament....there was a lot of good teams and uh, we really enjoyed it.....[wipes tears from his eyes]...I’m really proud of the boys.....
[Media coordinator] Okay, thank you Boko, you can go.