Trevor Letowski won a World Junior Gold Medal in 1997, and now 20 years later he’s a Memorial Cup champion as an associate coach with the Windsor Spitfires.
The Spitfires held on to beat the Erie Otters 4-3 Sunday night, becoming the first host team to win the Memorial Cup since the Shawinigan Cataractes did so in 2012. The victory marks the third straight year an OHL team has won the Memorial Cup, with four of the last six finals being decided by a single goal. Three of those championship games needed overtime.
No extra time was needed Sunday night, but the game was tied for the majority of the first two periods, until Aaron Luchuk put the Spits ahead for good early in the third.
Letowski knew they would have their hands full with a high powered Erie team, but credits their defensive play to limit the Otters’ chances offensively.
“They did everything they could, it was such a close game, you had to fight for every inch out there, we rode our four defenceman tonight and they were warriors out there, they kept it simple and played amazing,” says Letowski. “Erie is a great team and we had to be great to beat them, and we were tonight.”
Letowski played three years for the Sting before a nine year NHL career with Phoenix, Vancouver, Columbus and Carolina.
He says winning a Memorial Cup as a coach ranks up there with his accomplishments as a player, including winning a gold medal at the 1997 World Junior Hockey Championship.
“It’s very different because it’s 20 years later and you’re an adult, you realize how hard it is to win these championships,” says Letowski. “As a kid it just happens, and it’s obviously a thrill, but it’s a different feeling as a coach. You’re just so proud of the players, the relationships you build over the last two years with this group is pretty special, and they can never take this one away from us.”
After being eliminated by the London Knights in the first round, Windsor had a 44-day layover before starting the Memorial Cup.
Letowski says the break gave them plenty of time to prepare, but almost too much time.
“There is so much unknown when you have that much time away, obviously this was the grand plan and it ended up working. Our room had a real good feel to it, there was a real confidence, almost a swagger,” he says. “As a group we felt really comfortable coming into this game.”
The former Sting player and coach was in his second year as an Associate Coach with the Spitfires, a job he took following his departure from the Sting. He was let go following the 2014-2015 season when co-owner Derian Hatcher took over the coaching duties.
Letowski says he took the job knowing the Spitfires would have an opportunity to compete for a national championship.
“When I left Sarnia I got right back into it in a real good situation in Windsor, when I interviewed with them I had a really good feeling, it was a really good fit,” he says. “It felt right, my family is really happy here in Windsor.”
Windsor goalie Mike DiPietro was named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Goaltender while Erie’s Dylan Strome was named tournament MVP.
It’s the Spitfires third Memorial Cup in franchise history, after winning back to back championships in 2009 and 2010.