2017 Mastercard Memorial Cup final: Preview, how to watch

After years of trying, the Erie Otters are on the verge of coming close.

Tonight, for the 99th time, the national junior hockey champion will be crowned. It will be either the host Windsor Spitfires, or the OHL Champion Erie Otters. Three Tampa Bay Lightning prospects can see their seasons end on the highest note possible.

Taylor Raddysh is one year off of being drafted and scored 42 goals, assisted on 67 others and totaled 109 points. In the Memorial Cup tournament he has 5 goals, 6 assists and leads all players with 11 points. If the Otters win he’ll one of the top names tossed around for MVP of the tournament.

Anthony Cirelli won the Memorial Cup in 2015, defeating the Connor McDavid led Otters in the OHL finals. With Oshawa this year he had 34 points in 23 games before being traded to the Otters at the deadline. In Erie he had 30 points in his final 25 games. He’s leading the tournament in assists with 7, and has 1 goal putting him 4th in tournament scoring with 8.

Erik Cernak has been a big presence on the Otters blue line. A purely defensive defense man, he still had 21 points for the Otters this year, and has 2 assists for the Otters in the tournament.

The Erie Otters have had a long road to travel heading into the Memorial Cup. They finished with the best record in the Ontario Hockey League. The fought past the defending Memorial Cup and OHL champion London Knights in seven games. They battled past the Owen Sound Attack, who finished just one point behind them in the standings. While they won the OHL Championship Series in five games, each one was won by a single goal, the Mississauga Steelheads were no easy opponent.

In the Memorial Cup they beat the WHL champion Seattle Thunderbirds and the QMJHL champion Saint John Sea Dogs, who could not stay out of the penalty box. After a loss to the host Windsor Spitfires - a game which they out played and out shot the hosts, only to have Michael DiPietro steal the game for the Spits - the Otters fought back and beat the Sea Dogs again in the semi-finals, again out shooting and out playing their opponent.

It's fortunate for [the Spitfires] they're the host team. - Dylan Strome

There’s been no easy road for the Otters, and that’s something they’re perfectly fine with. Captain Dylan Strome said after the semi-final game “They earned it, well, I mean they played well this tournament. It's fortunate for them they're the host team”. The Spitfires have been no slouches in this tournament, handily defeating the Sea Dogs and Thunderbirds. Their first round loss to the London Knights in the OHL playoffs gave them time to heal and repair wounds from over the course of the season. Spitfires coach Rocky Thompson said that game one of the tournament was the first time all year that the entire Spitfires team has played together and been healthy.

For four years the Erie Otters have won 50+ games in the regular season. They had Connor McDavid come through town, Toronto Maple Leafs surprise 20 goal scorer Connor Brown was there. Many, many names have come across this team, but they’ve never been able to get past the OHL finals before. It happened once for the Otters, with a different core. In 2002 they won the OHL over the Barrie Colts, and made it all the to overtime in the Memorial Cup semi-finals before losing to the Victoriaville Tigres. The past three seasons the Otters would lose in the Western Conference Finals twice, and the OHL finals once.

This year wasn’t supposed to be the big one, however. The big names had moved on, Dylan Strome was supposed to be on the Coyotes. People outside the Otters community expected a good year, but not this.

Tonight is the Otters chance to prove that the best team was one who could win their league’s championship. Tonight is their chance at glory that has slipped through their fingers so many times before.

Tonight, they chant Go Otters Go amid a sea of Windsor Spitfires fans.

If you want to join in, you’ll have to watch on TV as the game has sold all 6,500 tickets. You can watch on the NHL Network in the US and on Sportsnet in Canada at 7PM tonight. You can also stream the game on pay-per-view at CHL Live for $7.99.