Guelph Storm @ London Knights: Game #7

Guelph Makes History, Storms Backs

London Knights Hockey

John Urban

The last time the Guelph Storm found themselves in a Game #7 was back in 2004, they prevailed 6-3 over the London Knights and would end up taking the OHL Championship.  Tuesday night at Budweiser Gardens it was Game #7 and thanks to four unanswered third period goals, the Storm advance to the Western Conference finals with another 6-3 final.  In the process, Guelph becomes just the fifth ever OHL franchise to comeback from down 3-0 in a best of seven series joining: Ottawa 67’s (1988), Windsor Spitfires (2005 & 2010) and Peterborough Petes (2014) in the history books.  
Guelph’s Dmitri Samorukov scored the lone goal of the opening period at the 16:40 mark unassisted and despite outshooting the Storm 10-6, London trailed 1-0 at the first intermission.  The Knights came out a different team in the second period though, scoring a powerplay goal with Guelph’s Nate Schnarr in the penalty box just 33 seconds into the frame by Alex Formenton.  The 17th point of the playoffs in 11 games for the Ottawa Senators prospect not only energized the 9,009 in attendance, but more importantly his teammates.  1:50 later Connor McMichael scored his second goal of the playoffs, snapping it past the glove side of Anthony Popovich to give London their first taste of the lead.  1:14 after that, Will Lochead sent an innocent shot toward the Guelph net, which was tipped by Liam Foudy to make it a 3-1 game.  London scored three goals in the opening 3:37 of the second, all within 3:04 of each other forcing Guelph’s Head Coach George Burnett to call a timeout.  For all intents and purposes it worked, as quickly as the floodgates opened, they closed.  Minutes later the OHL Player of the Week Nick Suzuki capitalized on a Storm powerplay, his 10th goal of the postseason brought his team within a goal before the second intermission.

Guelph’s Captain Isaac Ratcliffe scored 50 goals in the regular season, finishing with 82 points in 65 games.  However, in the first four games of the series against London, he had only registered 1 assist.  The London native couldn’t have picked a better time to snap out of a scoring slump, shooting off of fellow Londoner Nick Suzuki’s faceoff win to tie the game 3-3 just 2:49 into the third.  A mere 1:10 after Ratcliffe struck again, being set up backdoor to Jordan Kooy’s block side by Sean Durzi to put the Storm ahead for good.  “This is what you dream as a little kid, playing Game #7 on the road.  I mean, you’re playing in your driveway as a 7-year old shooting pucks against the garage dreaming of this moment,” said Ratcliffe after the victory.
Despite having 16:01 to stage a 1-goal comeback of their own, it never came to fruition for the Knights.  Arizona Coyotes draft pick and now Chicago Blackhawks prospect MacKenzie Entwistle added another two goals, including an empty net marker with 4:22 left in the contest that sent London fans to the exits.  “Honestly, we kind of found ourselves in Game #4 going ‘well we either win this one of we’re done’, then same thing and same thing.  Just kept going and going. […] Obviously it was the outcome that we wanted tonight, but you know we definitely earned it,” described Entwistle when asked how his team pulled off history.  
It’s not only the first time in the Storm’s history that the team was able to comeback from a 3-0 series deficit, they’re the only team to pull off the feat in the OHL’s second round and only the second team to accomplish the task past the first round (2010 Windsor Spitfires – Western Conference).  They’ll have little time to celebrate history though, as they are now set to play the Saginaw Spirit Thursday night at 7:05pm for Game #1 of the Western Conference Finals from the Dow Event Center in Michigan.      
For the London Knights the 2018/19 season ended a lot sooner than most would have predicted.  “All the players can learn from this and move further on in our careers, sort of take it with us.  Realize that you can never take the pedal off the gas when you’re up,” stated William Lochead after his final game in a Knights uniform.  The defencemen continued, “you still have to give them (Guelph) a ton of credit, they were down going into the third and somehow came back and ended up beating us.”  However, Assistant Coach Dylan Hunter pointed out to his locker room post-game this could be a good omen for the future, “I just told them about my experience, I was 18, we lost Game #7 here against Guelph and the next year we came back and won the Memorial Cup.”