WINDSOR, Ont. — Otters captain Dylan Strome didn’t take much comfort in winning the Memorial Cup’s MVP award after losing the final to the Windsor Spitfires on Sunday.
That’s not the trophy he set out to win.
"It’s an honour, but no one cares about the MVP trophy," said Strome, who briefly gave the Otters a 2-1 lead in the second period before falling 4-3 to the host Spitfires. "Everyone wants that big cup."
The Otters knew they’d have to start the 2016-17 season without Strome, who was drafted in the first round by the Arizona Coyotes in 2015. But when the Coyotes sent Strome back to the Otters after seven NHL games in November, he gave Erie an immediate lift, scoring at a two-points-per-game pace during the regular season while leading the Otters to the franchise’s second OHL championship.
At the Memorial Cup, the 20-year-old Strome led all scorers with seven goals and 11 points in five games to earn the MVP honours.
The highlight of Strome’s tournament came in the Otters’ 12-5 win over the QMJHL champion Saint John Sea Dogs on May 22, when the Mississauga, Ont., native scored four goals and added three assists to break the previous record for points in a Memorial Cup game (six), which had been done four times previously.
"I don’t think we would’ve been able to do what we did without him," said Alex DeBrincat, one of three Otters named to the tournament’s all-star team. "He’s obviously a great player, a great leader and it’s just tough we couldn’t win this one for him and all the guys not coming back this year."
Otters goaltender Troy Timpano stopped 18 shots in the loss. After the game, the Ajax, Ont.. native was caught on camera throwing his stick in the direction of a camera operator who was shooting the Erie bench for reaction shots.
"It sucks. That was tough," Timpano said. "All these guys work so hard all year, we accomplished so much as a group and for it to come to an end the way it did is just not what you want."
Erie swept Sarnia in the first round of the playoffs and needed seven games to defeat last year’s Memorial Cup champion London Knights in the second round. The Otters then got past Owen Sound in six games in the conference finals before using five games to dispatch the Mississauga Steelheads in the OHL final.
At the Memorial Cup, the Otters struggled with the host Spitfires, dropping the final round-robin game to Windsor 4-2 last Wednesday prior to Sunday’s loss.
"You have three league champions and credit to the host team, they played well this tournament," said Strome. "Nothing more to say. Credit to our guys. I guess we’re better than 59 teams, and you’ve got to give it to the host team, they had a great game tonight.
"Credit to them, but yeah, it’s unfortunate that it comes down to something like this where it’s just one game."