May 28, 2017 10:41 pm
Updated: May 28, 2017 11:05 pm

Windsor Spitfires capture the 2017 Memorial Cup

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
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The 2017 MasterCard Memorial Cup tournament featured eight games.

In every single one, the team that scored first was the team that went on to win.

Maple Leafs prospect Jeremy Bracco scored the first goal in Sunday’s final and then set up the game winner by Aaron Luchuk in a 4-3 Spitfires victory over the Erie Otters, helping the Otters claim the Memorial Cup championship in 2017.

It was Windsor’s third title as a franchise, and denied Erie what would have been their first.

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Bracco got the opening goal with just under four minutes remaining in the first period. A point shot by Mikhail Sergachev rattled to the side of the Erie net and, in the mix-up, Erie goalie Troy Timpano lost his stick. Gabe Vilardi, who will be a top pick in June’s NHL Entry draft, shook the puck free to Bracco and he snapped it in.

Windsor had become accustomed to scoring twice more. Every game before the final saw them jump ahead 3-0. This time, their opponent came right back.

Just 49 seconds later, a face-off win by the Otters was kept in at the right point by Darren Raddysh and he found Dylan Strome in the slot for Strome’s seventh goal and tenth point of the tournament, tying the game 1-1.

A power play goal less than five minutes into the second period put Erie ahead. Strome put the puck in off the skate of Warren Foegele, who appeared to kick out his foot to redirect it. The play was reviewed and the goal was counted and it put the Spitfires behind for the first time in four games.

Erie’s lead lasted just three seconds longer than Windsor’s did in the first period.

Logan Stanley, who missed the end of the OHL season and Windsor’s loss to the London Knights in the first round, got a puck through traffic and through Timpano to tie the game 2-2.

The Otters limited the Spitfires’ offense through the middle of the period, stifling their shot count, and then got some good work from their fourth line in the Windsor end, when a shot from the blue line off the stick of T.J. Fergus was tipped twice and beat Windsor goalie Michael DiPietro. Erie were up by a goal.

Not long after that, Fergus found himself in the penalty box and the Spitfires tied the game again. Vilardi set up Blackhawks draft pick Graham Knott with a cross-crease pass and the teams went to the dressing room tied 3-3 through 40 minutes.

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After killing a penalty early in the third period, Bracco skated into the Erie end on the right side, drew three Otter defenders to him and slid a pass to Luchuk in the slot and the Kingston native ripped a shot past Timpano for a 4-3 Spitfires’ lead.

For the first time in the game, there was no immediate response from the other team to tie things up.

In fact, Windsor held firm right to the end, getting help from DiPietro when they needed it and from a goal post with roughly one minute to go.

Erie outshot the Spitfires 38-24.

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Windsor head coach Rocky Thompson became the first head coach to lead his team to a Memorial Cup championship without ever winning a playoff round, and led them to a perfect 4-0 record at the tournament after a 44-day layoff.

© 2017 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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