The Guelph Storm captured its third J. Ross Robertson Cup championship in dramatic fashion on Friday Night Hockey.
Despite trailing for most of Game 5, the Storm snatched victory from the North Bay Battalion in the final minutes of the Ontario Hockey League season. Kerby Rychel, the team’s big trade acquisition in December, scored the tying goal with less than five minutes in regulation, and added the winner with 27 seconds on the clock.
The Storm join the host London Knights, whom they beat in five games in the second round, for this week’s MasterCard Memorial Cup. Guelph won all four of its playoff series in five games.
Sophomore forward Robby Fabbri captured the Wayne Gretzky Trophy as the playoff MVP.
“We didn’t have anybody win major awards, everybody questioned our style, our goaltending, everything. But you know what? I’ve never seen a bunch of guys care more about each other. They (couldn’t) care less about personal stats,” coach Scott Walker told the Guelph Mercury’s Tony Saxon.
It was the Storm’s first league championship since the 2003-04 season, and it’s an impressive feat for a team whose core was assembled on draft day.
Guelph now gets a chance to claim its first MasterCard Memorial Cup in team history. They lost the 1998 final in overtime against the Portland Winterhawks.
It was a bitter loss for the Battalion, who rekindled excitement in North Bay after the team’s move from Brampton in the summer. The Battalion weren’t expected to reach the league finals and appeared dead in the water after trailing Niagara 3-1 in the first round. The clock, however, struck midnight on this Cinderella run.
WHL, QMJHL FINAL GOING TO GAME 7
The final two participants for the MasterCard Memorial Cup will be determined in a seventh and final game in each of the Western Hockey League and Quebec Major Junior Hockey League championship series.
The Portland Winterhawks kept its dreams of a repeat alive with a come from behind, overtime victory in Game 6 on Sunday. The Winterhawks won the series’ first two games, but lost the next three before Sunday’s contest.
Portland trailed Edmonton 5-2 heading into the third period of Game 6. The Winterhawks rallied with four unanswered goals, including the overtime winner on a deflection by Keegan Iverson in sudden death. Game 7 is in Portland on Monday.
With a 6-3 win in Sunday’s Game 6, the Val-d’Or Foreurs pushed the QMJHL final to a decisive seventh game on Tuesday night. The Foreurs are trying to recapture the glory of its 1998 playoff run, when they were crowned league champions.
The ’98 version of the Foreurs featured future NHL star Roberto Luongo in goal and another NHLer in Steve Begin.
“The people were such fanatics. I called it ‘little Montreal.’ The people loved their team, they were a part of it,” Begin recalled.
Should the Foreurs and Winterhawks win their respective league championships, this year’s MasterCard Memorial Cup will feature three of the four participants from the 1998 tournament. The only difference would be the host team, with the London Knights taking the role the Spokane Chiefs held in 1998.
COACHING, MANAGEMENT CAROUSEL IN OHL
The axe fell on Kingston head coach Todd Gill last week. After seeing his team squander a 3-0 series lead to the underdog Peterborough Petes, general manager Doug Gilmour decided not to renew Gill’s contract.
“It was disappointing where we ended up. Unfortunately it is part of the (coaching) job. In my eyes we need a change, a new face,” Gilmour told the Kingston Whig-Standard.
A decision on Gill’s replacement should come in the next two to three weeks, Gilmour said. Rumours have already started with former NHL defenceman Jay McKee linked to the vacancy. McKee told Claude Scilley he was interested in the vacancy and already reached out to Gilmour a day after the team moved forward from Gill.
Meanwhile, the news of Jeff Twohey stepping away from his post as GM of the Oshawa Generals came out of left field. Twohey had been with the team for just two seasons, but helped guide the Generals to its first division title in more than two decades. He also hired this year’s coach of the year, D.J. Smith, and rebuilt the historic franchise.
The success he enjoyed with the Generals and his loyalty – he spent nearly three decades as an employee of the Petes – only sparks conspiracy theories regarding his departure.
– The Knights are doing everything they can to stay sharp leading up to the MasterCard Memorial Cup. The team held an intra-squad game on Friday and is starting to see the return of its walking wounded. Overage defenceman Zach Bell is, astonishingly, skating after breaking his leg on March 27.
– The QMJHL is the lone remaining of the three leagues to hold its annual draft. There isn’t a Nathan MacKinnon in this crop, but Pascal Laberge appears to be the front-runner for the top pick. The latest scuttlebutt has mixed reviews on the top five prospects, and suggests the Saint John Sea Dogs, holders of the first pick overall, could be looking at trading down.
– Foreurs forward and Detroit Red Wings prospect Anthony Mantha made an impression with his future head coach, Mike Babcock, in attendance for Game 3 last week. Mantha scored twice and had one assist in Val-d’Or’s 5-2 win. “I’m here because this is a prospect who’s knocking on the door,” Babcock told Gabriel Beland. http://www.lapresse.ca/sports/hockey-junior/201405/06/01-4764249-anthony-mantha-fait-son-spectacle-pour-mike-babcock.php “Sure, it’s junior hockey, so it’s hard to properly evaluate. But he’s got good size and good instincts.”
– Baie-Comeau goalie Philippe Cadorette is approaching the playoff wins mark set by Roberto Luongo.
– The Windsor Spitfires signed first round pick Logan Stanley to an OHL contract.
– Portland Winterhawks play-by-play man Todd Vrooman is following in the family business after his dad, Dean “Scooter” Vrooman, who called Winterhawks games for 25 years.