After finished below .500 two seasons in a row with Dave MacQueen behind the bench, the Petes weren’t expected to be strong contenders.
The Petes finished sixth overall in the regular season standings but proceeded to knock off three favoured clubs on their way to the OHL Championship.
The Petes hosted QMJHL Champion Granby Predateurs, WHL Champion Brandon Wheat Kings and OHL Guelph Storm in the four-team tournament. Every single game at the Memorial Centre was sold out.
The Petes had a good round-robin, posting a 2-1 record winning 6-3 win again Granby and 2-1 against Guelph. Their lone loss came at the hands of Brandon in overtime.
Cameron Mann’s third game winning goal of the tournament lifted the Petes past Brandon 4-3 in the semi-final. They advanced to meet Granby in the final, less than 24 hours later.
It was a memorable final but not for reasons the Petes would like to recall. Frederick Deschenes picked up the shutout as Granby won 4-0. The game is best known for the fog that plagued a humid Memorial Centre. Play was continuously interrupted so players could circle the ice to remove the fog. The heat affected the Petes much more dramatically than the rested Predateurs.
“The fan support we had was the biggest thing I remember and definitely the fog,” Martone said. “I played in Mississippi where it’s 10 times as hot and humid and we never had fog like that. Probably because they’re prepared for it. The Memorial Centre staff did everything they could but they weren’t used to having that many people and weather like that.”
Mann recalls his game winner against Brandon came on a breakaway after he’d missed an earlier opportunity. He led the Petes playoff march with 27 goals in 24 games.
“I was on just such a roll I knew I was going to score a goal every game,” Mann said.“If I didn’t score in the first or second, I just knew I was going to score whether it was a big goal or not.”
Mann’s biggest recollection was also of the fans who wore a sea of white T-shirts to show support.
“It was an exciting time,” said Mann. “I can’t say enough about the fans because it was crazy. They were awesome. The atmosphere and the feeling you got when you came out onto the ice is hard to put into words. It’s like winning a Championship.”
Mann also remembers how close-knit the team was and how they came together to buck the odds in the playoffs. The entire team dyed their hair blond in a unifying gesture.
“We never were expected to be there. We knew as a team we could win and go far but I think nobody expected us to really go that far and do as well as we did. They were hoping and cheering but I don’t think there was that pressure for us to be where we were, especially with Brandon and Granby there. We were at home but I still think we were the underdogs,” said Mann.