Michael DiPietro stepped up to lead the Ottawa 67’s to a demanding 2-0 lead over the Hamilton Bulldogs in the second game of the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) quarterfinal series.
“Mikey stood tall and he’s been the difference maker for us. Right now, he’s the unsung hero of our team,” 67’s head coach Andre Tourigny said about DiPietro’s performance.
Forward Graeme Clarke also stepped up in the game, as he notched his first career OHL hat trick in the team’s dominant win over the Bulldogs.
“I think Graeme had a really good start to the season. After his injury, for sure that slowed him down, but I think the last ten games of the season was really good,” Tourigny said.
“Especially the last five was really, really good, and it has carried over into the playoffs right now. He gets what he deserves. He works extremely hard every day, and he’s really easy to coach,” he added.
Since being traded to the 67’s this past December, DiPietro has played in 19 games, recording 14 wins and four losses.
“I’m kind of over the trade now. It’s something that, I’ve never won a playoff series with the 67’s, and that’s my goal right now, and that’s everybody else’s goal is to win this series and kind of get better each day, so, that’s our goal, and I’m proud to be a 67, and now it’s just business,” DiPietro said.
Despite defeating the Bulldogs 5-2, the game was riddled with plenty of penalties.
“Fantastic. We gave up eight PK in 19 shots against, I’ll take that every night. No doubt about it, I’m really proud of the guys, really proud of our PK, Mikey was solid. It was a really good game for us,” Tourigny said.
The 67’s served 29 minutes on 14 infractions, while the Bulldogs served 21 minutes on nine infractions.
“You know, obviously you don’t like to take that many penalties, but I think our penalty kill did a good job managing the threats on the ice and I thought we really had a good defensive effort tonight, and it’s something that we can continue to build on throughout the series and throughout the playoffs here,” DiPietro said.
Prior to joining the 67’s, DiPietro spent four seasons on the Windsor Spitfires, where he was named to the OHL First All-Star Team and OHL goaltender of the year in the 2017-18 season. He earned many accolades for his team’s Memorial Cup win in the 2016-17 season, and was named to the OHL First All-Rookie Team in the 2015-16 season.
“Playoffs are a different animal. I think any hockey player will tell you that. Any time you play a team more than once, obviously you do a lot of homework on them and you really want to analyze what their threats are, what their tendencies are, and then they’re going to do the same to you,” DiPietro said.
“And as a goaltender, obviously you have to be on the top of your game at every moment, and momentum is a big thing, so, I think as a goaltender, if you can really dictate the momentum for your team and be there for them when shit’s hitting the fan, I think it’s something that is beneficial for any club,” he added.
Earlier this year, DiPietro got named to the Canada’s World Junior team, in which he played in four games, and put up a save percentage of .952. DiPietro was then called up to his NHL team, the Vancouver Canucks, on an emergency callup, and was thrown in net when the main goaltender, Jacob Markstrom suffered an injury.
“I think it just helps with big games. Every one says big game. Big game here, big game there, and realistically it’s just a game. 60 minutes, you know, and it really puts things into perspective for myself and for the rest of the guys in the room,” DiPietro said about how his World Junior and NHL experiences have helped him this playoffs.
Since returning to the 67’s from his NHL experience, DiPietro has recorded seven wins and two losses.
“I think he’s playing really well right now. I think he’s in the zone, he makes a difference. What I like about Mikey right now is he makes the key saves at the right time,” Tourigny said about DiPietro.
The 67’s will look to close out their seven-game series in a sweep, as they head down to Hamilton to face off against the Bulldogs in games three and four on March 26 and 27, respectively.
“You can’t win a series in one game, and we’re just going to keep on building with our group, and trust the process that we’ve laid down, and hopefully just turn in the right direction,” DiPietro said.