Anthony Cirelli was a longshot to make the Oshawa Generals prior to the 2014-15 OHL season.
So what were the odds of Cirelli being the hero of the 2015 Memorial Cup?
By the time Cirelli, who is from Etobicoke, Ont., arrived at Oshawa’s 2014 training camp, he had been through two OHL drafts without being selected.
A few months later, he was the toast of the town.
The Generals, under head coach D.J. Smith, put together a 108-point regular season, then went 16-5 in winning the playoff title. That got them a berth in the Memorial Cup tournament, along with the Kelowna Rockets, Rimouski Oceanic and host Quebec Remparts.
This would mark the first time in the history of the four-team tournament that each participant had won a Memorial Cup. In fact, Oshawa had won four times, most recently in 1990.
The Generals went 3-0 in the round-robin, winning three one-goal games. They beat the Oceanic, 4-3, on Hunter Smith’s goal at 9:24 of the third period; got past the Remparts, 5-4, when Stephen Desrocher scored at 18:07 of OT; and edged the Rockets, 2-1, on second-period goals from Cole Cassels and Tobias Lindberg.
That guaranteed the Generals a spot in the final and four days off between games.
The other three teams each finished 1-2 — Quebec beat Kelowna, 4-3; the Rockets dumped the Oceanic, 7-3; and the Remparts blanked the Oceanic, 4-0, behind 27 saves from Philippe Desrosiers.
The tie-breaking formula sent Kelowna on to a semifinal, while the other two met on May 28, with the Remparts getting two goals from Jerome Verrier and beating Rimouski, 5-2.
On May 29, the Rockets, who had lost to Quebec on May 22, dismantled the Remparts, 9-3, to move into the final.
On May 31, Tomas Soustal gave the Rockets a 1-0 lead at 15:08 of the first period. Cirelli, who had scored 13 times in the regular season and twice in the playoffs, tied it with his first goal of the tournament at 13:50 of the second period. Then, at 1:28 of overtime, Cirelli banged home a rebound that gave the Generals a 2-1 victory and the championship.
“Words can’t describe what I’m feeing now,” Cirelli said. “Coming from midget hockey last year and making this team, then doing this . . . we worked so hard all season and to win it is unbelievable.”
Cirelli’s goal also gave Smith his third Memorial Cup as a coach; he was an assistant with the Windsor Spitfires when they went back-to-back in 2009 and 2010. As well, Oshawa assistant coach Eric Wellwood was a player on those Windsor teams, so he also now had three titles.
The 2015 Memorial Cup final was the last meaningful game played at Quebec City’s Colisee Pepsi. The Remparts moved into the Videotron Centre for the 2015-16 season.
2015 Oshawa Generals:
Ken Appleby, Jeremy Brodeur, Josh Brown, Chris Carlisle, Cole Cassels, Anthony Cirelli, Michael Dal Colle, Stephen Desrocher, Sam Harding, Sonny Hertzberg, Kenny Huether, Bradley Latour, Tobias Lindberg, Joe Manchurek, Dakota Mermis, Michael McCarron, Matt Mistele, Brent Pedersen, Daniel Robertson, Will Petschenig, Hunter Smith, Stephen Templeton, Michael Turner, Mitchell Vande Sompel, Aidan Wallace, Roger Hunt (Manager), D.J. Smith (Coach).