This is it…
12 wins down, four to go for two teams in the OHL. Two of the best teams in the league have worked their way in to the J. Ross Robertson Cup Finals. One of the clubs has not faulted, while the other has made it to this point in the most dramatic way possible. With a fresh series in view, who will punch their ticket to Halifax?
One team that has been one of the best from game one of the regular season on, it should be no surprise that the 67’s are in this position. After finishing as the best team in the OHL during the regular season, they have taken the shortest path to the finals. They are the only team from the three leagues to enter the championship series undefeated. After defeating Hamilton and Sudbury, the 67’s took on the Oshawa Generals. Ottawa made quick and easy work of the Generals, and in impressive fashion. After winning game one with a 6-4 barn-burner, the 67’s took games two and three by a combined eight-goal margin. The Generals emptied their tanks in game four trying to stay alive, but Tye Felhaber’s second goal of game four in overtime eliminated the Generals, and sent Ottawa to their first Finals appearance since 2005, where they lost to the eventual Memorial Cup Champion London Knights.
Felhaber was exceptional once again for the 67’s. The Pembroke, ON native scored a pair of points in each of the four games, including scoring two goals in both games three and four. His linemate Sasha Chmelevski had eight points in the series as well, as he scored four points in game two, and assisted on both of Felhaber’s goals in game four. Before getting sucker-punched by Oshawa’s Anthony Salinitri in game three, rookie Marco Rossi was having a great series, scoring four goals and four assists in the first three games of the series. Michael DiPietro continues his swan song with another solid series in net. After giving up seven goals in the first two games of the series, the Vancouver prospect stopped 49 of the next 51 shots he faced, and leads all goaltenders in the playoffs in goals-against-average with a 2.26 GAA.
This team was put together at the Trade Deadline in order to become a legitimate contender. Despite the Storm finishing fourth in the West, they looked good in round one, where they swept Kitchener with ease. Things were not looking good in round two, as Guelph found themselves trailing 3-0 to the top-seed London Knights. However, the Storm rallied to win four straight and steal the series, setting up a matchup with the second-best team in the West in Saginaw. The Spirit took game one handedly 7-2, and the Storm looked like they were going to take game two, but a late goal from Bode Wilde and an overtime goal from Ryan McLeod put Guelph down two games for the second time this postseason. After the Storm took game three on home ice, Saginaw won game four to put the Storm on the ropes. Once again, Guelph turned things around and won three straight to punch their ticket to their fifth OHL Finals, and first since 2014.
Scoring for the Storm came from all over in the conference finals, and in bunches as well. Isaac Ratcliffe was consistent throughout the series, as the Philadelphia draft pick scored three multi-point games in the series, while amassing eight points in total against the Spirit. Dmitri Samorukov was a big-time producer from the blue line for Guelph, as the Edmonton prospect had 10 points in this series. His best game came in game five, where he helped turn the series around with three goals and an assist, with a +3 rating. You could not talk about Guelph’s series victory without mentioning the incredible set of performances from Nick Suzuki. The biggest pickup from the Trade Deadline showed his value when Guelph needed it most. The Montreal prospect scored 11 points in the series, including a four assist outing in game five. His highlight-reel goal in game six only helped solidify the notion that Suzuki is a big game player.
As Gorilla Monsoon stated before Andre the Giant took on Hulk Hogan at Wrestlemania III,
“The irresistible force meeting the immovable object.”
The immovable object is the Ottawa 67’s. A team that has not lost all postseason, and has no intention in doing so. The irresistible force being the Guelph Storm. A team that no matter the pressure they are put under, they will come out victorious. Something has to give. DiPietro in net is as confident as ever, the same could be said about his counterpart, Anthony Popovich. The question will be, whic Popovich will the Storm get on any given night. While Popovich played amazing in the four wins in the conference finals, the three losses he did not look up to par. The battle of the offences will be the matchup to watch, as both lineups can light the lamp. Despite the Storm being arguably the toughest team Ottawa has faced in the these playoffs, will Guelph be able to get a single win from the 67’s? Let alone four? If Ottawa can take advantage of home ice and go up 2-0, it may be another short series win for the 67’s.
Guelph puts a chink in the armour of Ottawa, but that’s it. 67’s win in five.