The Petes knocked off the heavily favoured Toronto Marlies in the playoffs before sweeping the Ottawa 67’s to win the 1971/72 OHA title. The Cornwall Royals won the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League and the Edmonton Oil Kings took the Western Canadian Hockey League title.
The Petes beat Cornwall 4-2 and Edmonton 6-4 to advance directly to the one-game championship final. Cornwall defeated Edmonton 5-0 in the semifinal.
Future NHL star Richard Brodeur made 46 saves in the final, leading Cornwall to a 2-1 win at Ottawa’s Civic Centre.
It was the only trip to the Memorial Cup for Roger Neilson in his 10 year career as coach of thePetes’. Cornwall also had a legendary coach in Orval Tessier who won a coin flip for home ice advantage in the final game and shocked everyone by electing to be the visiting team.
“Roger thought it was the funniest thing,” Petes’ scoring ace Doug Gibson said. “We all know how Roger liked to match lines. He thought it was going to be such an advantage and we could do whatever we wanted because we had the last change.”
The game was scoreless until future NHL’er Bob Murray beat Petes’ goalie Mike Veisor with the unlikeliest of goals. His point shot went off the back glass and hit Veisor in the back before rolling into the net. Gary McGregor later snipped a shot over Veisor’s shoulder off a face-off for the winning goal.
“It was one of those games where we just didn’t score any goals,” said Gibson, who led the club with 51 goals and 99 points that season. Other notable players on the team included Bob Gainey, Ron Lalonde, Jimmy Jones and Colin Campbell.
While the round-robin format has been retained for 33 years, Gibson said it wasn’t popular in the beginning.
“It came down to a one-game winner takes all where in the past it had been a best four-out-of-seven,” said Gibson. “It was exciting in the fact it was a new format but a lot of people were complaining because they were going away from the norm.”
Because the Petes won their round-robin games easily, Gibson has always looked upon the final loss with disappointment.
“As anybody will tell you, the Memorial Cup is the most difficult cup to win because you only get two or three chances at it,” Gibson said. “We were cruising and had won our first two games at the tournament quite easily. All of a sudden, maybe we were a little overconfident, I don’t know, we just didn’t score enough goals that final.”