Growing up a stone’s throw south of Windsor in nearby Amherstburg, Michael DiPietro spent his childhood years watching the Spitfires. Now, he’ll have his name engraved on the Memorial Cup as a champion with the organization he grew up enamoured with.
“It’s so special winning at home, especially with this group of guys,” said DiPietro following a 32-save performance in Sunday’s 4-3 championship win over the Erie Otters. “We really showed our character. I couldn’t imagine a better ending to all of this. I don’t know how else to say it.”
DiPietro’s outstanding play was rewarded with the Hap Emms Memorial Trophy, an award given annually to the tournament’s most outstanding goaltender. He went 4-0, posting a 2.00 goals-against average and a .932 save percentage to join Jordan Binnington (Owen Sound, 2011) as one of the few 17-year-olds to ever earn the distinction.
“We always knew our team was unique,” said DiPietro of the Spitfires who overcame a 44-day layoff following their first round exit from the OHL Playoffs. “Everyday we came to the rink and worked hard. We had a plan and we executed it.
“I’m just so happy that it all worked out. The guys stuck to the system and I’m so grateful.”
DiPietro entered the Mastercard Memorial Cup as the fourth ranked North American goaltender on NHL Central Scouting’s Final Rankings from mid-April. One can only think his big-game antics will translate into good things come June 23rd and 24th in Chicago.
If a teammate’s opinion counts for anything, Winnipeg Jets first round selection Logan Stanley provided a glowing review of the young netminder after the final buzzer on Sunday.
“In all honesty I think he’s going to be a great goaltender in the NHL,” said the 6-foot-7 Stanley. “Any team will be lucky to get him on draft day. Every game he finds a way to put on a show and we saw that here this week.”
Spits head coach Rocky Thompson cited DiPietro’s fine play as a primary reason for his club’s Mastercard Memorial Cup success.
“Mikey DiPietro is one of the biggest reasons for all of this,” he said with a smile. “Our guys executed and we got our goals when we needed them, but he was a wall back there.”
The local boy has made his mark on the Spitfires’ franchise record books in his two campaigns with the club, setting both single-season (6) and career (8) shutout records this past season. He also tied Andrew Engelage’s 2008-09 single-season goals-against-average mark of 2.35.
Though a disappointing first round demise at the hands of the London Knights cut Windsor’s playoff run short, DiPietro and the Spitfires persevered through through their 44-day trial that kept them sharp for the Mastercard Memorial Cup.
“This makes it all pay off,” he said after hoisting the Memorial Cup. “All the sweat, early mornings, it all paid off in the end.”
DiPietro was the focus of a Rogers Hometown Hockey feature when the cross country tour visited Windsor in November.