Toronto, ON – The Toronto Marlboros scored three goals in the third period including the game-winner with just 20 seconds to play to score a thrilling 5-3 comeback win over the Don Mills Flyers to win the 2011 OHL Cup Showcase Tournament hosted by the Greater Toronto Hockey League.
Aaron Berisha was the hero for the Marlies with three points and the winning shot that sailed upstairs to beat Flyers’ goaltender Charlie Graham at 14:40 of the third period for his second goal of the game and eighth of the tournament sending the Marlies’ bench into a frenzy.
The Marlies captured their third OHL Cup title in seven years with previous wins in 2009 and 2005, and appeared in the Championship Final for the fifth straight time.
“I couldn’t have asked for anything better than this,” said Berisha, who finished the tournament with 13 points in seven games and was named recipient of the Tim Adams Memorial Trophy as tournament MVP. “We worked hard together all year, such a great way to end our minor hockey careers.”
BJ Salerno opened the scoring for the Flyers with his sixth of the tournament burying a shot past Alexander Fotinos just 1:29 into the first period. The Marlies replied at 12:19 of the first when captain Bryson Cianfrone slid a shot under Graham’s pads to tie the game heading into the intermission.
The Marlies came out flying in the second. Cody Thompson circled behind the Flyers’ goal and fed Berisha in front who hammered the puck home to make it 2-1 just 1:12 into the second. Less than two minutes later the Flyers responded with Adam Abu-Ali jamming a loose puck into the net at 2:50. The momentum appeared to shift heavily in favour of the Flyers when a failed pinch by the Marlies’ defence left Flyers’ forward Max Domi in a race for the loose puck with just Marlies’ goaltender Fortinos to beat. Fortinos left his crease and slid out near the top of the circle reaching for the puck just seconds too late allowing Domi to shift around him and score into the empty-net at the 9:40 mark.
The Marlies continued to battle in the third creating quality chances, none better than a Berisha partial breakaway with just over five minutes to play that nearly tied the game. Berisha would recover and help setup the game-tying goal with underage player Joshua Ho-Sang feeding David Perklin who cut across the middle just outside the crease to score the equalizer shifting the momentum in the Marlies’ direction which led to Berisha’s heroics.
“This one today was really nice, this was a fourth place team last year that came a long way,” said Marlies Head Coach Ken Strong. “When we were trailing at the break I told them if you don’t win, at least compete. They came out flying, they know how to win. These are some great hockey players and just a great bunch of kids.”
With three points today including an empty-net goal and two assists, Thompson led both the Marlies and the tournament in scoring with two goals and 12 assists for 14 points. Perklin claimed Player of the Game honours for the Marlies with a goal and an assist, while Domi earned the honour for the Flyers with two points. Domi also led his club and finished fourth in tournament scoring with 11 points in seven games scoring five goals and six assists. Fotinos earned his fifth win of the tournament between the pipes while Graham took the loss for the Flyers, his first in five tournament starts. Jordan Subban competed in his second straight Championship Final with the Marlies after being called up last season.
“It is an unbelievable feeling,” said Subban. “Losing in the finals last year made me more determined this time. I have been on the other side and it is a lot more fun winning. We stayed positive all game and I had no doubt that we were going to come back.”
The Marlies finished an exciting OHL Cup tournament with a perfect 7-0-0 record. The Championship Final was played at Herbert Carnegie Centennial Arena in North York, ON, before a crowd of nearly 1,000 people and was broadcast live for the first time on Rogers Sportsnet Ontario.
“This was a great week of hockey culminating in a final game that featured the number one and number three ranked teams,” said OHL Director of Central Scouting and Player Development Rob Kitamura. “It came right down to the wire and it is always great to see the players step up their game in situations like this, and both teams should be proud to end their minor hockey careers on a great note.”
Hockey Night in Canada star and Minor Hockey advocate Don Cherry presented the OHL Cup alongside OHL Commissioner David Branch as part of the post-game ceremonies.