The best was saved for last at this year’s Mastercard Memorial Cup.
A tournament that featured three blowout decisions through six round robin games ended with the closest and wildest affair on Sunday with the host Windsor Spitfires defeating the OHL champion Erie Otters 4-3.
It was truly special for Michael DiPietro, Windsor’s NHL Draft-eligible goalie who was raised half an hour away in nearby Amherstburg.
“To win it in front of the home crowd, friends, family billets, everything about it makes me feel so blessed,” said DiPietro, who made 32 saves and finished the tournament with a 2.01 goals-against average and .931 save percentage. “I’m so grateful for this opportunity.”
Naturally, DiPietro grew up a Spitfires fan and witnessed Windsor’s back-to-back Memorial Cup victories in 2009 and 2010.
While it was fun watching stars like Taylor Hall and Adam Henrique lead those teams to victory, it was a much different perspective for DiPietro to win one himself.
“Obviously it’s more exciting and (there’s) more enjoyment,” DiPietro said.
“You do so much throughout the year and to have it pay off like this is truly amazing.”
Jeremy Bracco scored a goal and two assists to finish as Windsor’s leading scorer in the tournament with eight points (three goals and five assists). Earlier this year, the elite trade deadline addition helped the United States win gold at the World Junior Championships.
He joins 24 other players who have won both World Junior gold and the Memorial Cup in the same year.
“Any time you can be put into an elite group of guys like that and guys that are able to win games like that is pretty special,” Bracco said.
“Just to be a champion in general is everything.”
Captain Dylan Strome led the Otters with a goal and an assist. He was named tournament MVP after tying Taylor Raddysh for the tournament lead in points with 11 and finishing one goal shy of the tournament record of eight goals, shared by Dale Hawerchuk, Luc Robitaille and Pat Falloon.
Aaron Luchuk recorded the game-winning goal, Logan Stanley and Graham Knott also scored for the Spitfires and Logan Brown and Gabriel Vilardi each contributed with two assists.
Warren Foegele and TJ Fergus rounded out the scoring for Erie.
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