Michael DiPietro is more of the extrovert while his Windsor Spitfires teammate Gabe Vilardi seems more subdued. But they’re both all business during the Mastercard Memorial Cup as the Spitfires aim to book their ticket to the final with a win over the Erie Otters in a battle of two undefeated teams to conclude the round-robin.
There’s a good chance the head coaches of the Saint John Sea Dogs and Seattle Thunderbirds gave somewhat of the same pre-game pep talk prior to their pivotal round robin game at the 2017 MasterCard Memorial Cup.
Dylan Strome couldn’t help but interrupt a reporter’s question after he was notified of the OHL’s recent dominance at the Mastercard Memorial Cup.
Entering the Mastercard Memorial Cup, the Seattle Thunderbirds’ No. 1 goalie spot was Carl Stankowski’s to lose. That in itself is pretty remarkable since he started this season as a true 16-year-old rookie and was thrown into the fire through the entire WHL playoffs as he replaced injured starter Rylan Toth and backed the Thunderbirds to their first ever WHL championship.
Maybe it’s a coincidence that Dylan Strome, Mathew Barzal and Thomas Chabot are all at the Mastercard Memorial Cup playing prominent roles for their teams.
The Seattle Thunderbirds are up against the brink for the first time in more than a year. The Memorial Cup host Windsor Spitfires truly had their way with the WHL champions Sunday at the WFCU Centre, sending the Thunderbirds to the bottom of the standings while placing themselves firmly on top.
Sean Day has truly benefited from a change of scenery with the Mastercard Memorial Cup host Windsor Spitfires. In three seasons with the Mississauga Steelheads, it was clear that he had a lot of talent, but he struggled to find his identity as a defenceman and faced a lot of scrutiny from many who didn’t feel he lived up to the “exceptional status” label he was given in 2013.
Carl Stankowski continues to be the story for the Seattle Thunderbirds. The T-Birds left the WFCU Centre with a 4-2 loss to the OHL champion Erie Otters in the first all-American Memorial Cup matchup since 2007, but Stankowski was the reason Seattle stayed in the conversation until the final buzzer.
Judging from the Windsor Spitfires performance on opening night of the 2017 MasterCard Memorial Cup, their 44 day layoff from the CHL postseason suited them just fine. On April 4, Windsor was eliminated from the OHL playoffs after losing in seven games to the London Knights.
After 68 games (72 in the WHL), four playoff rounds, countless hours spent at practices and on the bus, it all comes down to this. The Erie Otters, Saint John Sea Dogs and Seattle Thunderbirds all captured championships in their respective leagues and will push a little further through four to six games in an effort to claim junior hockey supremacy at the Memorial Cup.
Robert Thomas has inched his way up the rankings all year and finds himself in the top 25 with just over a month to draft day. Moving 43 spots since December where he debuted at #64, the London Knights high-scoring forward has made the steady rise to now sit at #21.
The Windsor Spitfires are underdogs at this year’s Memorial Cup, but the team has plenty of weapons at its disposal – and a tank full of gas. The City of Windsor last hosted the Memorial Cup in 1981, back when it was held in neutral cities. Since the format was restructured in 1983, the Spitfires have played in the tournament three times – advancing to the final on each occasion. They won twice, in 2009 and 2010.
The Erie Otters have finally found that winning formula. Captain Dylan Strome and OHL defenceman/overage player of the year Darren Raddysh have both been part of the Otters since 2013 and leading into this year, they were part of some very strong teams.
The Seattle Thunderbirds defied all odds in the Western Hockey League playoffs. From missing out on a divisional banner to the Everett Silvertips, to losing starting goaltender Rylan Toth due to injury and being an overwhelming underdog against the CHL’s top-ranked Regina Pats — the T-Birds have heard it all before, but none of that stopped them from avenging last season’s heartbreaking loss in the final and punching their ticket to the Memorial Cup.
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