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Three Lightning prospects win the OHL Championship

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Raddysh, Cernek, and Cirelli are heading to the Memorial Cup!

Dan Hickling/OHL Images

The Erie Otters captured their second J. Ross Robertson Cup, 15 years after the first, and were able to do so on home ice. Every game was close, but the Otters were control for the majority of the series. Now, it’s on to win their first Memorial Cup!

May 4th - Home - W 2-1
Taylor Raddysh - 0G, 0A, -1
Erik Cernak - 0G, 0A, +1
Anthony Cirelli - 0G, 1A, +1

The Erie Otters opened the series with a solid victory, but nothing too flashy. The Otters scored both goals in the second and played some solid defense, keep the Steelheads to just 5 shots per period (4 in the first!). From GoErie.com:

They were workmanlike — or dare we say, effectively boring — from start to finish of a 2-1 win against Mississauga on Thursday in front of a Game 1 crowd of 5,087 at Erie Insurance Arena. For a club best known for its offensive skill, either description is fine.

“I thought everybody was committed to playing good defense,” Otters head coach Kris Knoblauch said. “That’s the way we want to play. We want all four lines chipping in, and playing a little more aggressively. We know how much they use their three (top) lines, and we feel that if we use our depth a little more, maybe we can be a little more fresher and a little more aggressive.”

May 7th - Home - W 3-2
Taylor Raddysh - 0G, 0A, +1
Erik Cernak - No Points
Anthony Cirelli - 0G, 2A, +1

The Otters continue to play solid defense in the face of the hard shooting Steelheads. Winning the first two at home gives the Otters a huge advantage. With the series heading to the half full Hershey Centre in Mississauga, there won’t be much of a home ice bump for the fish. From GoErie.com:

Of course, it came off the stick of Warren Foegele, whose goal snapped a tie with 1 minute, 57 seconds left to seal a 3-2 win against Mississauga in front of 6,170 fans. And of course, linemate Anthony Cirelli made the pass that set up Foegele for the go-ahead score.

They were the final pieces to the Otters’ plans to win the J. Ross Robertson Cup as league champion, a pair of Eastern Conference standouts who joined the club a week apart in moves made in the final week of the OHL’s trading period. But they should be first in line to claim the Wayne Gretzky ‘99’ Award as the postseason’s most valuable player. It would only be fitting if they shared it.

“They’ve been huge for us,” Otters winger Alex DeBrincat said. “Both of them have pretty timely goals for us. Today again, Foegele with the breakaway goal. He’s been great for us. They’ve been working well together. They’re a huge part of this team.”

May 8th - Away - L 4-3
Taylor Raddysh - 0G, 2A, +1
Erik Cernak - 0G, 1A, -1
Anthony Cirelli - 1G, 0A, -1

The Steelheads took their first victory in the series at home, in front of one of their largest crowds for the playoffs yet. They forced the Otters to take all of their shots from the outside, while the fish got in close to the Otters net. From GoErie.com:

“We’ve been in Game 7s, elimination games, bad performances, good performances,” Knoblauch said. “We’ve played a lot of hockey the last four years. Dylan (Strome) has been here for all that, Darren Raddysh. Numerous guys have had a lot of hockey games (in that time). I think there’s a lot of confidence within our group that we can get the job done.”

After goals from Nathan Bastian and Michael McLeod rallied the Steelheads to victory, the reigning Eastern Conference champions are ready to even this series on home ice, instead of having back to Erie for a potential season-ending Game 5 on Friday.

“That’s the big thing we talked about too, to have confidence to go out there and play,” head coach James Richmond said of the third period. “We’ve earned our way here. We didn’t fluke it in here. We didn’t get here because of one player. We got here because our team is playing well. I told them to have confidence in themselves and in each other, and just focus on what we do right.”

Meanwhile, it’s business as usual for the Otters, who have displayed a knack for rebounding from losses.

May 10th - Away - W 5-2
Taylor Raddysh - 0G, 0A, -1
Erik Cernak - 0G, 0A, +2
Anthony Cirelli - 0G, 1A

The Erie Otters came into this game on the 15th anniversary of their last OHL Championship, when the 2002 Otters defeated the Barrie Colts in five games and Brad Boyes was named payoff MVP. Erie played like a team that wants a week off before the Memorial Cup and burst out of the gate. Warren Foegele had five points and more goals that the Steelheads. From GoErie.com:

The Ontario Hockey League’s 124-year-old championship trophy could be the guest of honor for a celebration Erie has waited 15 years to experience for a second time, as the Erie Otters moved within a win of the second title in franchise history with a 5-2 victory against Mississauga in front of a Game 4 crowd of 4,418 fans at Hershey Centre on Wednesday.

Now, the scene turns to Erie Insurance Arena for a potential clinching Game 5 on Friday at 7 p.m.

“It’s a special night. We’ve never been in this position before,” Otters captain Dylan Strome said of a group that rebounded from a loss in Game 3 to take a commanding 3-1 lead in the best-of-7 series behind a career-high five points from Warren Foegele and a gutsy performance from Darren Raddysh, who overcame what initially appeared to be a serious knee injury in the first period to lead a banged-up and undermanned Otters’ defense. Alex DeBrincat contributed a goal and an assist, while Dylan Strome had a goal and assist to become the Otters’ all-time playoff scoring leader with 83 points.

May 12th - Home - W 4-3 OT
Taylor Raddysh - 3G, 0A, +2
Erik Cernak - 0G, 0A, +1
Anthony Cirelli - 1G, 2A, +1

Taylor Raddysh scored a hat trick and Anthony Cirelli scored the overtime winner as the Erie Otters captured their second OHL Championship on home ice last night. The Lightning prospects played the biggest games of their careers so far and now they’re taking some well deserved rest, before heading to Windsor for the 2017 Memorial Cup Tournament. From GoErie.com:

Nearly 15 years to the day when Courtney scored in Game 5 of the OHL Championship Series to clinch the Otters’ first title, Anthony Cirelli’s goal 2 minutes, 41 seconds into the extra period of Game 5 on Friday capped a 4-3 win against Mississauga and claimed the second J. Ross Robertson Cup in Otters’ history in front of a franchise-record crowd of 6,781 fans Friday at Erie Insurance Arena.

“Just a lot of emotion,” Cirelli said of watching Courtney drop the ceremonial first puck, only to have those spine-tingling feelings topped during a sequence of events that began with 1:15 left in regulation, when Taylor Raddysh’s goal capped a comeback from a two-goal deficit and his first playoff hat trick, and ended with the power-play goal that sparked a celebration 15 years in the making.

“I didn’t even know what to think,” captain Dylan Strome said of the moments after Raddysh’s tying score. “We settled down in the dressing room, and we got a power play and we capitalized. It’s been our bread and butter all year, and we came through.”


The Erie Otters now head to the 99th Memorial Cup Tournament. Their schedule is as follows: