GUELPH– Not many thought it was possible. If a team was given what the Guelph Storm had to endure this OHL Playoffs, the odds were slim. But the 2018-19 Guelph Storm isn’t just any other team. They epitomize perseverance, determination and conquering adversity on another pedestal. In three consecutive series, they experienced deficits. Two of those were on the brink of elimination.
But this pesky Guelph team never gave up. The Storm surged when their backs were against the wall. And now, they are on top of the Ontario Hockey League, claiming the J. Ross Robertson Cup for the fourth time in their franchise history by dethroning the Ottawa 67’s in six games.
“I can’t put this into words,” said Isaac Ratcliffe, who had two goals and two assists in the 8-3 rout of the Ottawa 67’s in Game 6. “The resiliency from this team is unbelievable, none that I haven’t seen before. I’ve never played for a team with this much skill, class and character.”
Guelph Storm Battled Adversity All Playoffs, Including Game 6 Against Ottawa
Every OHL season has its ups and downs. Whether it’s a slump during the regular season or being down in a playoff series, the adversity that a junior hockey team faces is integral in building character and toughness.
This is the Guelph Storm mantra. Against the Western Conference leading London Knights they were down 3-0. In the Western Conference Final against the Saginaw Spirit they were down 3-1. Finally, the OHL Championship presented its own challenges, as the Ottawa 67’s took a 2-0 series lead.
But the experience of coming back to win against London and Saginaw proved to be vital for Guelph. In the final four games of the OHL Championship, the Storm would outscore the 67’s 23 to 13. The final two games saw the Ottawa 67’s have early leads.
On the brink of elimination, Ottawa scored two goals to open Game 6, putting doubt and silence throughout Sleeman Centre. But the Storm players never wavered. After being outshot in the first period 13 to 12, Guelph began to surge in the second period, winning the puck battles and creating scoring chances. After the 67’s missed on two wide open nets to put the game out of reach, Guelph would score five unanswered goals, two of which came from their captain Isaac Ratcliffe, and one from Montreal Canadiens prospect Nick Suzuki.
It is this belief in each other and the veteran leadership that enables the Storm to have success coming back from any deficit.
“We had a nice response in the second period,” said Burnett. “Being behind in two series helped us when we were down tonight. We stayed patient and we were able to find the puck to generate offence.”
The Storm Surges to Halifax for the Memorial Cup
Not only was Isaac Ratcliffe a pillar for this Storm team, but also the players Guelph acquired at the trade deadline. Montreal Canadiens prospect Nick Suzuki, after acquiring him from the Owen Sound Attack, generated 42 points this postseason (16 goals, 26 assists). This earned the young forward the Wayne Gretzky Trophy for MVP of the OHL Playoffs.
Chicago Blackhawks prospect Mackenzie Entwistle, after being traded from the Hamilton Bulldogs, used his veteran leadership to be a pivotal asset for the Guelph Storm. Playing alongside Ratcliffe and Suzuki in Game 6, Entwistle was a +2 with one assist, adding to his seven goals and 14 assists for the entire postseason.
With Guelph’s fourth OHL Championship in franchise history, the team now prepares for its next challenge. The Memorial Cup, the holy grail of junior hockey, is up for grabs and the Storm will look to continue its hot streak playing alongside the best junior hockey teams in Canada. For these youngsters, it’s an opportunity to showcase their gifted offensive abilities on an even bigger stage.
“For me to have another chance to play for a Memorial Cup, I am so excited,” says Entwistle.
Two years ago, a championship seemed like an unattainable concept. But through hard work and a devoted ambition to be better, the sunny skies turned to clouds. And the clouds turned into a Storm that has now surged to the top of the Ontario Hockey League.
This team isn’t ready to give that up just yet.