The Peterborough Examiner
Underdog role propelled Petes to title
Veteran-laden lineup bought in at the right time
How did a 74-point team with a losing record after Jan. 10 become OHL champions?
The Peterborough Petes’ 74 points in the regular season is the lowest total by an OHL champion since the adoption of a 68-game regular season in 1998-99, eclipsing the 80 points of the 2000-01 Ottawa 67’s.
In 1996, when the season was 66 games long, the Petes won the J. Ross Robertson Cup with 79 points.
But the team with the lowest regular-season point total to win the OHL championship was the 1981 Kitchener Rangers, who finished first in the Emms Division with 69 points (one point better than Mark Hunter’s Brantford Alexanders).
In the final, Kitchener beat the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, who had 96 points. Four of the Leyden Division teams had more points than the Emms champ — the top five teams in the Emms only had seven points between them (the Niagara Falls Flyers and the Toronto Marlboros were tied for fourth at 62 points).
This season, the Petes took a similar path.
After loading up at the OHL trade deadline, the Petes finished the season 14-16-1, including losses in four of their last six games.
They then proceeded to sweep the Sudbury Wolves, upset the first place Ottawa 67’s in six games, upend the favoured North Bay Battalion in a seven-game conference final and oust the Western Conference champion London Knights in six games.
If you ask Petes players, it’s a pretty simple answer.
“We bought in,” said Owen Beck. “The pieces were there — the talent, the skill, the grit. Everything was there. We’re an older group and that pays dividends in the playoffs. We all bought in. We all pulled together. We all did our jobs and it worked out.
“We were counted out in the regular season and played the underdog role all playoffs. From where we were to where we are now is something special. This will be something I never forget,” Beck said.
“It was just some playoff magic,” said goalie Michael Simpson, winner of the Wayne Gretzky 99 Award as playoff MVP. “We always had a super tight group in the room and we always believed in ourselves, but it just for some reason wasn’t clicking. That game one against Sudbury we started that snowball effect and we just never really looked back.”
“It was all hard work,” said Tucker Robertson, who had three gamewinning goals in the final, including Sunday’s Game 6. “We came in every day and we worked our hardest. We were the hardest working team in the league and usually that is the best team in the league.”
The doubters didn’t bother them. “I kind of liked the doubt. It lit a fire under us,” Robertson said. “It made us work harder. We knew how good we were, it just took a little time to gel. Once we got past Sudbury, we knew we were going to be tough to stop.”
“We believed in our group,” said Brennan Othmann. “In every series everyone took everyone else but us. Everyone had Sudbury beating us, Ottawa sweeping us, North Bay beating us and London beating us. We’ve proved everybody wrong and we’re going to continue to do that.”
Chase Stillman said it was fun to prove everyone wrong.
“Seeing some hate on social media and not a lot of people believing in us, to be honest, was just fuel to the fire,” Stillman said.
“The players in the room knew what we were capable of and knew the talent and skill and hard work we were going to put in. It took a little bit. Making big trades like that is not always an easy adjustment for guys to come and fit in. I think the guys we did trade for made a huge difference for us.”
The Petes will depart for Kamloops, B.C., on Wednesday. They are sharing a chartered flight with the QMJHL champion Quebec Remparts. A departure time was to be announced.
The Petes open the tournament Saturday at 6 p.m. ET against the WHL champion Seattle Thunderbirds. The Petes’ second game will be Sunday against the hosts Kamloops Blazers also at 6 p.m. ET.
They will complete the roundrobin portion of the tournament when they face Quebec on May 30 at 9 p.m. ET. If a tiebreaker game is required it will be June 1 at 9 p.m. ET. The semifinal is June 2 at 10 p.m. ET and the final on June 4 at 7 p.m. ET.
All games are televised live on
Free outdoor public viewing parties are also expected to be held at the Quaker Foods City Square near Charlotte and Aylmer streets.