2017 Memorial Cup recap: The Erie Otters open their fight with a win against Seattle

Game highlights, thoughts, and an interview with Anthony Cirelli.

When Erie Otter coach Kris Knoblauch first spoke to the media at the Memorial Cup, he was confident about the Otters play in the OHL playoffs and upcoming in this weeks tournament. “We had a roller-coaster of a playoff, a lot of highlights, but there was a lot of tough competition we went through. A game seven overtime against London, and a five game series against Mississauga, which was very close.” When asked about how the players will react to being in the tournament after winning the OHL title: “It can be such an emotion high after winning a championship, the it can be hard to get players refocused. I’ve seen it before where players weren't expecting to be in the Memorial Cup (Kootenay Ice, 2011), and they were too excited. Right now we’re focused on May 28th and winning the Memorial Cup, and making that next step.”

The Erie Otters have the luxury of facing a travel weary Seattle Thunderbirds team, that flew from Seattle, to Regina, back to Seattle, and then to Windsor, all in the span of five days, while the Otters covered barely 200 miles of travel, from Mississauga to Erie, to Windsor.

Another seeming advantage that the Otters hold over the Thunderbirds is in goal. The Otters Troy Timpano had played 44 games over the course of the season, and is the Otters regular starter. The team knows his habits and how to cover any holes in his game. He played all 20 of the Otters OHL playoff games.

Seattle had Rylan Toth as their starter for 58 games this season, until a lower body injury took him out of the game near the seasons end. Rookie goalie Carl Stankowski has had the Thunderbirds net after playing just seven regular season games. Stankowski has been excellent for the Thunderbirds, posting a .911sv% and a 2.50GAA. At just 17 years old, he’s now Seattle's best hope for a Memorial Cup. Just a little pressure.

The Tampa Bay trio were all on the ice for the opening face off, with Anthony Cirelli winning the draw. A quick back and forth between the two teams saw Erik Cernak set his tone for defending the Otters net: use the size advantage. He and Turner Ottenbreit had a shoving match before the first minute had expired and seemed eager to use his strength whenever possible to make it as difficult as possible for the Thunderbirds to get into the net.

On the offense, the line of Cirelli, Taylor Raddysh, and Kyle Maskimovich is playing like they can read each others minds. Making passes, and plays. Maskimovich was passed over the in 2016 draft, he was ranked 104th among North American skaters by Central Scouting, 155th overall by HockeyProspect.com, and 19th by Future Considerations. Perhaps a flyer on an AHL deal if he’s passed over again this year? Something to think about and see if he and Cirelli can keep up their play together, or he can play one more year in Erie with Raddysh.

The Erie Otters controlled much of this game, and showed why they’ve been picked by many to go all the way this year.

Game Highlights

  • Erik Cernak not afraid to kick off the game with some physicality against Turner Ottenbreit
  • The Otters spend their entire first power play in the Thunderbirds zone, but aren’t successful
  • This tweet:/
  • Otters goalie Troy Timpano’s easy going glove hand. Makes saves like a laser wrist shot from Seattle’s Alexander True look like he’s playing catch with a toddler.
  • Carl Stankowski was a highlight reel all by himself. Stops Taylor Raddysh one on one with ease.
  • The Otters have the puck at the point and play tic tac toe to Taylor Raddysh, to Dylan Strome (Coyotes) , right into Stankowski’s glove.
  • Alex DeBrincat’s (Blackhawks) goal to open scoring for the game./
  • Scott Ensor ties the game with a nice rush into the Otters end.
  • The final two minutes of the second period stands out. Jordan Sambrook (Red Wings) scores for the Otters, Taylor Raddysh and Erik Cernak assist
  • Then, Austin Strand goes top corner on Troy Timpano, tying the game at two.
  • Dylan Strome opens the third period by spinning around in front of the Thunderbirds net and sliding a backhand into the corner to give Erie the lead./
  • Christian Girhiny potted the empty net after an assist from Anthony Cirelli.
  • Full game highlights:/

Post Game Interview with Anthony Cirelli

Q: Is the intensity [at the Memorial Cup] what you remembered from two years ago?

Cirelli: It was a fast paced game, two great teams going at it, for sure.

Question: Stankowski made some great saves on you, one right off the opening draw, did you get a sense he was in it right from the start, and how did you guys try to off set that?

Cirelli: He was unbelievable all game. He was making so many great saves for them. We had to get traffic to the net and just try to get a greasy one.

Question: How did this team stay focused and poised in a 2-2 game when you were carrying the game for the most part.

Cirelli: We went through a lot in the playoffs, so I think we were familiar with it, We knew it wasn’t going to be an easy game, that it would be a battle, so for us to come out with a win is huge for us.

Question: To get the win right away, does that put you in a god position moving forward?

Cirelli: Yeah, it was one of the important ones for sure. We’ve played really we tonight and are happy with the win.

Question: What do you do to adjust for the next game against Saint Johns?

Cirelli: It’s a completely different team, obviously we haven’t seen them either, we have just got to continue to play the game our way.

Question: Talk a little bit about the atmosphere here, because there were a lot of Erie fans in the stands. Were they helping you out, providing some energy for your team?

Cirelli: Yeah, the Erie fans have been great all year for us, during the playoffs. For a bunch of them to come down here and support us is a great feeling for us, to know that they’re behind us. We want to win for them.

Question: Seeing as you’ve been here before, what have you told your teammates about what to expect here?

Cirelli: Every game’s going to be a hard game. There’s no easy games. We’ve just got to come out and stay focused for a full 60. Just focus on us and continue doing what we do.

Question: Coach joked about how you were telling everybody about what to pack and stuff like that and that sort of thing, but did you talk to them about the game on the ice? How different is it from the playoffs from the regular season?

Cirelli: Yeah, it’s completely different. I learned there in Quebec that you’re playing against two other champions and Windsor who is an unbelievable team. There’s a lot of good teams here. You don’t really too much know what to expect because there are different game styles and stuff like that, but we have to focus on what we do.

Question: Were you surprised that two OHL teams won the first two games?

Cirelli: A little bit, I don’t know. There’s four really good teams here, so any night anyone could win any game.

Question: Is this different than 2015 for you?

Cirelli: For me, maybe a little bit. I was a lot younger that year. Just coming in, playing a more responsible role. I’m just really enjoying it.

Question: You’re playing on the same line as another Lightning prospect, Anthony Cirelli...

Cirelli: [stares]

Question:...no that’s you, I meant Taylor Raddysh! Do you think that’s going to help, moving up through their system through the system together, and with Erik Cernak, you can both play on Syracuse together, or do you think that may not matter as much?

Cirelli: No, that’s huge to get to play together, in junior, and at the world juniors, I know what he’s like, he’s fast, strong, takes pucks to the net, so to get o play with him now, and even Cernak, I think it’s helpful so we’re used to each other.

Question: Any chance of talking up your undrafted line mate, Maksimovich, to the team, trying to get him into camp so we can have the whole line together?

Cirelli: He’s a great player, he’s fast, a little big stronger, but strong on his feet. He makes unbelievable plays and has a great shot. He has all the tools to make it to the next level. I’m surprised he isn’t drafted, but for sure he’ll get to camp or even drafted this year. I love playing with him.