Otters’ offensive label at Mastercard Memorial Cup an understatement

Dylan Strome set a record with seven points in the Erie Otters win over the Saint John Sea Dogs at the MasterCard Memorial Cup.

WINDSOR, Ont. — Dylan Strome isn’t sure, but he thinks the last time he had a seven-point night might’ve been back in Minor Midget, when he played for the Toronto Marlboros in the Greater Toronto Hockey League.

“That’s the last time I can remember,” said the 20-year-old, with a grin, minutes after his Erie Otters earned their second straight win at the Mastercard Memorial Cup. “Probably the only time.”

Well, not the only time.

On Monday, the Otters captain tallied a Memorial Cup record-setting seven points in a single game, with four goals and three assists in a ridiculous 12-5 win over the QMJHL champion Saint John Sea Dogs.

“We’re having fun out there,” Strome said, wearing a mesh-back Otters hat over his bleached hair (the whole team bleached their hair, after a close 13-12 vote in favour). “Things are rolling.”

They sure are. The 12 goals the Otters scored, too, is a record for most scored by a team in a game at this tournament.

“It’s something pretty special,” said defenceman Darren Raddysh, who had a four-point night himself, with a pair of goals. “To get a record like that, it’s pretty cool.”

Asked when he found out they’d broken that record, Raddysh said: “Right now.” No, the 21-year-old blueliner—the OHL’s defenceman of the year, who somehow hasn’t been drafted by an NHL team yet—doesn’t care much about it.

“It’s just a record,” he said. “We wanna win the Memorial Cup.”

On Wednesday, the Otters will face the only other undefeated team here, the hosts from Windsor, with the winner moving straight to Sunday’s final. And at this point, it’s hard to picture that final without the Otters playing in it. To call them offensive juggernauts is an understatement.

The team that scored 319 times in 68 regular season games tore out of the gate here in their second game. The Otters scored five times in the first period alone on Monday. They moved the puck at will. They were relentless. Before this game began, Windsor Spitfires forward Jeremy Bracco led all scorers in this tournament with four points. Alex DeBrincat (4), Taylor Raddysh (6), Strome (7), Anthony Cirelli (4) and Darren Raddysh (4) all either matched or eclipsed that lead in three periods.

Seven Otters had two points or more in the win.

They scored on their first shot of the game, when Taylor Raddysh used a Sea Dog defender as a screen, then sent a wrist shot over the glove of Saint John goalie Callum Booth.

“That was a good start for us,” said Raddysh, a Tampa Bay Lightning prospect. “We knew they were gonna come out strong. I was able to get that quick goal there, it gave us a lot of momentum and it happened to work out for three periods.”

It did. The OHL champs had four goals before this one was even 11 minutes old.

Cirelli, who’s also a Tampa Bay prospect, had a goal and two assists in the first period alone, including the fifth goal of the night for Erie, which was a big one, if you ask Strome. In a game that featured 17 goals—that, too, is a record at this tournament—it’s comical to hear players revisit the action.

“Tony got a big goal, Cirelli there on the wraparound, and that made it 5-2, and I think after that we made it 6-2, 7-2, then they made it 7-3, and I think once we got the eighth goal, I think we were pretty comfortable,” said Strome. “Once we got the eighth goal there we kind of just settled in and just relaxed and enjoyed it.”

But before the first period got out of hand when it came to Otters production, Saint John did claw its way back, though their efforts didn’t stand up long. Rookie Cedric Pare made it 1-1 after Ottawa Senators prospect Thomas Chabot carried the puck over the Otters blue line to set up the play.

But less than a minute later, the Otters got their lead back. Darren Raddysh—Taylor’s older brother—sent a point shot toward the net that was redirected by Chabot and past Booth.

Winger Kyle Maksimovich made it 3-1 for Erie after he got a pass from Cirelli, did a little toe drag, then sent a wrist shot over Booth’s glove.

Booth was called to the bench for a chat after that, almost like a quick linechange, and then sent back out. “I wanted a longer time to talk to him,” said Sea Dogs head coach Danny Flynn.

But not long after, Strome scored, (the Sea Dogs made it 4-2 thanks to Mathieu Joseph) and then Cirellii scored, and Booth’s night was over. The Carolina prospect headed to the bench for good this time after seeing 14 shots, and in came Sea Dogs backup, Alex D’Orio.

Saint John registered just four shots in the first period. The good news, if there was any, is that their shooting percentage was 50 per cent after the first. But that was about the only good news here, aside from the two-goal night for Cedric Pare.

“I think we are a little surprised at how good the teams are in this tournament,” said Flynn. “We gotta regroup.” They do. On Tuesday, Saint John faces Seattle, and the winner of that game featuring the two teams with 0-2 records will earn a spot in Friday’s semifinal.

Saint John, down 12-3 at one point, did score a couple quick ones late in the third period. But penalty trouble in the second and third periods made this already lopsided game get out of hand, and Erie capitalized on five power play opportunities in all.

“Instead of just keep playing our hardest we, including myself, especially myself, started taking penalties, which didn’t help at all,” said Chabot, who had two assists in the losing effort.

“There’s nothing to say. They just teach us a lesson in hockey.”

They did.

On a few goals, like when DeBrincat—he of the OHL-leading 65 goals in the regular season—slapped a one-timer on net on the power play, for the team’s eighth goal of the night, you couldn’t even call what happened afterwards a celebration.

Strome, too, scored his third of the night, slid into the boards, then picked himself up and, without a smile, connected for a couple of fist-bumps with teammates and then calmly skated back to the bench.

Then he sat down next to Taylor Raddysh, who also had six points, and Strome let Raddysh know that no Otter had ever tallied seven points in a single game.

“He happened to break [that record] the next shift there,” said Raddysh, laughing. “It was cool for him to get that seventh one.”

And after that fourth goal, Strome said he was smiling, even though he wasn’t aware it was a Memorial Cup record until after the game was over.

“The puck just sitting there—I got lucky,” Strome said, of his seventh point of the night. (He didn’t get the puck, but he said a teammate might have.)

“I mean, I’m skating back door and just happen to stop and it goes back there.

“It was one of those nights where it was fortunate for us and for myself and my linemates and most of the players out there.”

And only after a 12-goal win can you say that.

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