Memorial Cup semifinal preview: An end to Bolts on Bolts violence
Erie and Saint John face off tonight for the right to play for the Memorial Cup on Sunday
One way or another, there are going to be multiple Lightning prospects playing in the Memorial Cup final in Windsor Sunday afternoon. With the host Spitfires already punching their ticket with a 3-0 record in the round robin, tonight Mathieu Joseph, Bokondji Imama and the Saint John Sea Dogs face off against Anthony Cirelli, Taylor Raddysh, Erik Cernak and the Erie Otters for the chance to play for the Championship. Whoever wins, Tampa Bay Lightning fans are going to have a rooting interest on Sunday.
The Round Robin
In the Memorial Cup, the semifinal game is a matchup between the second and third place teams in the round robin - with first place getting a bye to the final and 4th going home. With a 2-1 record - including a dominant victory against Saint John - the Erie Otters finished second and will be the home team tonight.
My recap of tonight's game: pic.twitter.com/8oHn2on3OG— DADam (@ElSeldo) May 23, 2017
The Otters rolled through their first two games of the tournament with two lopsided victories - including a 12-5 beat down of Saint John this past Monday. With a chance to get a bye straight to the final, Erie badly outplayed Windsor - outshooting the hosts 35-19 - but were done in by their inferior goaltending, dropping the game 4-2.
Bolts prospect Taylor Raddysh leads the tournament with 9 points, while Dylan Strome leads all goal scorers with 5 through the 3-game round robin - four of which came in the game against Saint John.
Saint John Sea Dogs
Saint John came into the tournament on an absolute tear, steamrolling through the QMJHL playoffs with a 16-2 record. That came to an abrupt halt as Windsor and Erie proved the level of competition becomes significantly harder when you get to the OHL. Dropping their first two games, they were forced to play for their tournament lives against Seattle - winning a 7-0 decision to punch their ticket to the semifinal.
The Sea Dogs were flat out embarrassed by Erie when the two teams met in the round-robin. The final score was 12-5, and even that is generous for how outclassed the QMJHL Champions looked. Dylan Strome was setting records and his teammates looked to be coasting through the second two periods.
With that said, if they are able to get out to a better start this time around, Saint John definitely has a chance to win this game. The team’s top pair of Chabot and Zboril looked a lot better against Seattle and they will have to be the best players on the ice - something they are capable of - for their team to win.
Offensively, Erie is just going to have to do what they’ve been doing all season. The team gets scoring chances better than anyone in the country and they’ll be looking to jump out to an early lead to kill any confidence their opponents might have. The one thing that could sink the OHL Champs is goaltending. Troy Timpano didn’t look good against Windsor and weak goals have been a problem for the Otters all season.
Taylor Raddysh (9) and Anthony Cirelli (6) sit first and tied for third respectively in tournament scoring. Playing on Erie’s second line with Warren Foegele, the two Baby Bolts have been incredible all playoffs long and nothing has changed since the Memorial Cup started.
After the off day skate yesterday, Bokondji Imama had a few things to say about his linemate and fellow Lightning Prospect Mathieu Joseph - this should be music to the ears of Bolts fans:
“We played together my first year here in Saint John, we were both drafted onto the same team, we're roommates, we're both from Montreal. Our chemistry is really solid. It translates onto the ice. We love to work hard, and that's where our line's play is coming from. His skill gives me room, my physical presence gives him room, that's something we're bringing to the table”
What to Watch For
This is going to be a fun game to watch. The teams combined for a record 17 goals in their last meeting, and given the firepower of both teams, we should expect another highly offensive game. Red Wings prospect Jordan Sambrook is having a coming out party for Erie, he and Spencer Smallman of the Sea Dogs are two guys that are definitely making a name for themselves on the biggest stage.
Before the tournament started, I predicted a Saint John/Windsor final so I can’t go back on that now. With that said, any time you pick against Anthony Cirelli in the biggest game of the season, you’re likely going to lose.
Follow Tom’s other writing at The Blogger’s Tribune.