“I Never Thought I Would Play Hockey at This Level”: Cedrick Andree has Elevated Himself and has the Ottawa 67’s in Contention for Junior Hockey’s Ultimate Prize

Photo credit: Valerie Wutti

From nearly quitting hockey at a young age to leading the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) in wins and backstopping his hometown team to the top of the league standings, Ottawa 67’s goaltender Cedrick Andree has emerged this season in a way few saw coming, including himself.

“I never thought I would play hockey at this level,” said Andree.

Andree has been a steady presence in goal all season long for the 67’s. He has a tremendous starting record of 26-4-1-1 and sits fourth in the OHL with a goals against average of 2.56.

Growing up in the Ottawa suburb of Orleans, a brisk 20-minute drive from TD Place Arena, Andree says he was a “huge fan” of the 67’s. He attended countless games to cheer on his team but never envisioned himself one day playing for them.

The 18-year-old did not come from a hockey background. In fact, he is the only member of his family that has played the game at any level. His father is a skier. Andree enjoyed skiing as well and came within a roster decision of giving up hockey entirely to focus more on his other favourite sport.

At just nine years old, Andree was ready to move on from the game if he did not make the Cumberland Jr. Grads. Well, he was selected and the journey from that point has taken him to the top levels of Canadian junior hockey.

All of this success just a year after making only 11 starts and winning just a single game. Originally a 12th round pick in the 2016 OHL Draft, Andree first joined the 67’s for the 2017-18 season. He finished the season with a record of 1-10 as the backup to Olivier Tremblay.

Andree says the difference between last and this season has mostly been mental. He remembers how nervous he was as a rookie OHL-er and now feels more comfortable both in net and in the locker room.

“Less worrying, less stressed out,” said Andree.

His growth this season has perhaps been the epitome of the 67’s overall growth. In the past two years, Ottawa has gone from a fringe playoff team to gearing up for a spring of provincial and national contention.

They were one of the youngest teams in the OHL last year in head coach Andre Tourigny’s first year at the reins. Through the inconsistency that is a common mark of youth, the 67’s struggled at times to find their footing but snuck into the playoffs with the Eastern Conference’s eighth and final playoff spot, before being swept in the opening round of the playoffs.

There are some new faces, including star rookie Marco Rossi and some key in-season trade acquisitions (more on them later), but the bulk of the Ottawa roster is built up of players from years past. As a group, Andree says they became closer because of the ups and downs they faced last season. Those tough times bred a team that was more focused and more confident right from the jump in training camp.

Andree says the team felt great early on about how the upcoming season was shaping up, although doesn’t think anyone expected them to be this good. But the 67’s have been one of the OHL’s top teams all season and their run from September until now has hit very few snags.

“We realized how much more fun it is to win,” joked Andree.

Andree gives the credit to the coaching staff, who he describes as “incredible”. Tourigny and his staff have kept practice tempo high while making sure the team does not get burnt out through the long OHL season. They have built and led a team that has allowed the second least goals to opponents and is tied for the most goals scored.

Adapting to his first year as a full-time starter has certainly been made easier by the high-powered team in front of Andree. The 67’s have scored goals in spades this season, averaging over four per game.

The combination of goal-scoring excellence and backstopping brilliance has led Ottawa to victory after victory. When Andree is on his game, which he often has been this year, the 67’s usually come away with a win. The team is 17-1-1 when Andree lets in two goals or less.

Ottawa has not been satisfied with their impressive first half to the season however. Last week, they traded for two talented forwards: Kyle Maksimovich (from the Erie Otters) and Lucas Chiodo (Barrie Colts). As far as Andree is concerned, the message sent from those two moves is clear. The front office believes in this group and the window to win is now.

An even bigger splash was made in early December when the 67’s traded for Memorial Cup champion goaltender Michael DiPietro. The Vancouver Canuck-draftee brings both accomplishment and experience.

Andree complimented the experience all three bring to a relatively young 67’s locker room. Each has played over 150 regular season OHL games in their junior careers (Chiodo has played in 227, Maksimovich 292) and have years of playoff experience.

DiPietro has not been around Ottawa long due to his time away from the team to compete with Canada at the World Junior Championships last month, but the potential one-two punch in net going forward between him and Andree could be something to behold.

Both goaltenders are top five in the OHL in goals against average and are top 11 in save percentage. Even with the OHL schedule usually consisting of weekend slates with three games in three days (Friday, Saturday and Sunday), the 67’s will be able to employ a top-tier goaltender no matter their choice to start any given day while keeping both goalies well rested down the stretch.

With just over two months left to go in the 2018-19 regular season, the 67’s have high aspirations. Andree says the team is looking to match their strong first half and beyond.

“Who knows, maybe bring a Memorial Cup back to Ottawa,” said Andree.

Andree may not have seen this hockey success coming, but he now has dreams of finishing his junior career at home with the 67’s and hopes to one day make a living off the game he loves like so many of his peers.

Expectations for these Ottawa 67’s will be high for the rest of the season. Yet, expectations of himself and this team have had a hard time holding Cedrick Andree back before. Why should they now?