Peterborough Petes are 2023 OHL Champions


Toronto, Ont. – Tucker Robertson‘s third game-winner of the OHL Championship Series was the third period difference-maker, crowning the Peterborough Petes J. Ross Robertson Cup champions for the 10th time in their history as they defeated the London Knights by a score of 2-1 in Game 6.

A record crowd of 4,101 at the Peterborough Memorial Centre saw the Petes skate to their first OHL championship since 2006 as Michael Simpson, who would earn the Wayne Gretzky 99 Award as OHL Playoff MVP, made 36 saves including 14 in the third period.

Robertson, who continually came through in the clutch throughout the series, was brimming with pride after the final buzzer.

“This city has been so amazing throughout the playoffs and all my three seasons here,” he said. “It’s been incredible and I’m so proud to be able to help bring them a championship.”

After a scoreless first that saw Peterborough outshoot London 20-10, Avery Hayes broke the offensive silence 5:27 into the second, slipping a backhand shot under the arm of London goaltender Owen Willmore.

Peterborough carried a 1-0 lead into the third before London got on the board courtesy a goal by San Jose Sharks prospect Max McCue. Connor Federkow gathered an assist on the play as he directed the puck through the slot with his skate to set McCue up to hit the open side of the net 7:59 into the period.

The Petes would respond with 8:50 remaining as Seattle Kraken prospect Robertson would tip a Donovan McCoy point shot past Willmore to give the Petes a 2-1 edge, one they’d hold onto until the final buzzer to be crowned OHL champions in 2023.

“It was a great play by Dono (McCoy). We’ve been preaching just getting pucks to the net and I got a lucky tip that went five-hole.”

Willmore earned third star honours in the game, stopping 34 of 36 shots as the Knights saw their season come to an end.

London played to regular season mark of 45-21-2-0, earning their fourth consecutive Midwest Division title. They eliminated the Owen Sound Attack, Kitchener Rangers and Sarnia Sting to earn their seventh Wayne Gretzky Trophy as Western Conference champions. Knights forward Ryan Winterton led the OHL Playoffs in scoring with 29 points (13-16–29) over 21 games. London co-captains Sean McGurn and George Diaco played their final OHL contests while overage netminder Brett Brochu, who was injured in London’s Western Conference Championship Series matchup against Sarnia, will also graduate.

The Peterborough Petes played to a regular season record of 35-29-2-2 with 74 points, the lowest total by an eventual OHL champion since the 1981 Kitchener Rangers. Entering the playoffs as the fourth-seed in the Eastern Conference, the Petes swept the Sudbury Wolves before eliminating the East Division champion Ottawa 67’s and Central Division-leading North Bay Battalion to win the Bobby Orr Trophy. Their six-game series victory over London completes a 16-7 playoff showing, one in which they played to a record of 10-1 at the Peterborough Memorial Centre.

Former Hamilton Bulldogs Avery Hayes and Gavin White are OHL champions with different teams in consecutive seasons, joining a group that includes names such as MacKenzie Entwistle, Jack Hanley, Ben Shutron, Scott Timmins, Josh Unice, Adam Dennis, Daniel Girardi and former Petes forward Daniel Ryder that have also done so since the year 2000.

OHL Playoff MVP Michael Simpson became the third netminder to ever claim the honour and first since Ottawa’s Seamus Kotyk back in 2001. Simpson, who hails from London, Ont., played all 23 of Peterborough’s playoff contests, recording a 2.80 goals-against average and .918 save percentage.

“It’s pretty cool to win the MVP, but that other trophy is way more important,” said Simpson after the final buzzer. “There isn’t another group of guys that I’d want to win with.

“We battled through so much adversity this year and to come out on top it shows everybody that we’re the real Petes. We had a lot out doubters around the trade deadline and look where we are now? We can’t wait to get to Kamloops.”

The Wayne Gretzky 99 Award was presented by Commissioner David Branch before the J. Ross Robertson Cup was presented to Peterborough Petes captain Shawn Spearing by OHL Vice President Ted Baker, who will be retiring following 35 seasons in the Ontario Hockey League.

Spearing becomes the first player in league history to serve as captain of both an OHL champion as well as an OHL Cup champion since the adoption of the current OHL Cup tournament format in 2002. He wore the ‘C’ for the Toronto Jr. Canadiens when they skated to U16 AAA supremacy in 2018.

The Petes advance to represent the OHL at the 2023 Memorial Cup presented by Kia set to begin in Kamloops, British Columbia on Friday, May 26. The Petes open the tournament against the WHL champion Seattle Thunderbirds on Saturday night and will also compete against the QMJHL champion Quebec Remparts and tournament host Kamloops Blazers in the national showcase.

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