Storm brewing? London Knights lose in Guelph to force once-unthinkable Game 7 – The London Free Press

Storm brewing? London Knights lose in Guelph to force once-unthinkable Game 7 - The London Free Press
Guelph Storm forces Game 7 with big Saturday night win (10 photos)
Jordan Kooy hugs the post as Guelph's Isaac Ratcliffe comes in and Kooy was able to keep the puck from moving out front. Mike Hensen/The London Free Press file photo

GUELPH – At the end of a third straight difficult loss, Dale Hunter held up his hand to the officials and showed all five fingers.

He was indicating the number of power plays the Storm enjoyed during their 5-3 Game 6 victory before 4,253 Saturday at Sleeman Centre.

The Knights, though, only had one chance with the man advantage and Adam Boqvist immediately scored on it.

“5-1 – that’s a big advantage for Guelph,” the London coach said. “They had 10 minutes of power play time and we had seven seconds. It’s one of those things where it’s 5-1 and it’s basically a rugby match out there with a lot of grabbing and holding. We only had the one, which is unfortunate.

The Storm never scored on their power plays. It’s kind of incredible they have forced a Game 7 Tuesday with just a 3-for-29 conversion rate over the course of the series.

Down in the third and generating a lot of momentum, Billy Moskal was caught on an accidental high stick that ended up costing him a double minor. Alex Formenton’s ensuing cross-check on Nick Suzuki handed to Storm a two-man edge when the Knights were trying to draw even on the scoreboard.

“It tires out your best players,” Hunter said. “We had (Formenton) and (Liam) Foudy killing. Then, they have no push. It’s hard to get going again (on the attack).”

Guelph’s go-ahead tally during a second-period rally was controversial, too. Sean Durzi snuck into the slot while blue-line partner Dmitri Samorukov was mugging London centre Kevin Hancock at the other end of the ice.

“Another rugby match,” Hunter said. “He (Samorukov) was playing rugby right then. He shoved him down so he couldn’t get back (on the back check).”

Hancock ended up getting tossed after Suzuki’s empty-net goal sealed the Storm win. Joey Keane, who had one of his best games as Knight, believes the officiating is something London has to put behind it now.

“I think we’ve had a few bad refs here the past few games,” he said. “We can’t let that get the best of us. We’ve got to be better as a group. We have to find a way.”

The Storm weren’t biting on London’s rugby-scrum accusations. They would relish a Game 7 with only one infraction to kill.

“It (the calls) is what it is – I just know we can’t be in the penalty box,” Guelph coach George Burnett said. “It’s extremely important to our success to not let (the Knights) be on the power play at all, let alone once or twice. We have to be sharper on our special teams. We’ve been playing for our lives here and we have a lot of work to do in the next three days.”

Only a handful of OHL clubs have rallied back from an 0-3 deficit and won a series. The Storm want to write their name in history and London wants to avoid some infamy.

“That’s what hockey’s all about – Game 7s,” Hunter said. “Winner takes all. That’s what you want to be in.”

BIG SECOND: Foudy opened the scoring and the Knights played a near-perfect first period on the road. But everything went south by surrendering three in the second.

Guelph captain Isaac Ratcliffe, the quiet Londoner in the series, finally found the net on a nifty backhand. Then, Jack Hanley played the unlikely hero.

The overage d-man had only eight goals in 316 OHL games – and none in 38 playoff contests before he beat Jordan Kooy on a seeing-eye point shot.

Originally a Belleville Bull and a league champ with Hamilton last year, Hanley has played for Burnett in three different cities.

“He knows he’s not going to run the power play,” Burnett said, “but he’ll put his body and face and anything in front of the puck. He’s not really close to being 100 per cent healthy but he’s finding a way to go out and battle his butt off. We need that.

“He came in here with a purpose this year and to see what he did to come back from what really is a season-ending injury and participate, get hurt and come back, it says a lot about his character.”

The former Owen Sound captain has exploded for 10 points in the latter half of the six games  – tied with London’s leader Evan Bouchard for the series lead.

“He seems to be excited to be here and he’s elevated his game,” Burnett said. “We expect this from him, but I think he expects it from himself to be in the key situations and go out there and score a big goal or defend. Other people are seeing some of the things Nick is doing and we’re getting more from other people as we go along.”

AROUND THE RINK: London was much better in the faceoff dot Saturday. They won 34 to Guelph’s 27 . . .  The Knights fired 17 shots on goal in the third period, even with the untimely penalties . . . The Knights had seven goals in their Game 2 and 3 blowout victories. They have just seven in the ensuing three losses . . . Former Guelph star and London native Drew Doughty was in attendance with his family. The Los Angeles Kings defenceman visited the Storm dressing room before the game . . . London d-man Adam Boqvist has 10 playoff goals, an incredible number for an OHL defenceman. Even more impressive? Nine of those have come on the road . . . The Knights have eight power-play goals in the series. They have to find a way to generate more opportunities. Of course, when they got seven in Game 5, they didn’t cash in . . . Sault Ste. Marie forward Jaden Peca was suspended two games for an inappropriate gesture in the Game 5 victory at Saginaw Friday. The Greyhounds could use him with their season on the line against Sunday. He has three goals and 13 points in 10 playoff games . . . How about Oshawa? The Generals traded two of their best players to Niagara, and now they’re one win away from ousting the IceDogs.

The Guelph Storm got some encouraging words from one of the franchise's all-time greats prior to Saturday's Game 6 at the Sleeman Centre.

Los Angeles Kings defenceman Drew Doughty stopped by the dressing room to offer some words of encouragement to the Storm players.

"He came in the room before the game to give us a little pep talk, it was nice of him to give us a little speech talk and fire us up," said Storm defenceman Sean Durzi.

"To have him here supporting us and see us play first hand is definitely really cool, a little bit of a motivator," Durzi said.

Maybe Doughty gets a bit of the credit, but the 20 guys wearing the Storm jerseys deserved the bulk of it, as they downed the London Knights 5-3 in front of a crowd of 4,253.

The Storm, who once trailed the series 3-0, have now forced a seventh and deciding game in London Tuesday night.

"It was a little bit of a motivator before the game, but all that being said, it was pretty easy to get up for this game," said Durzi., who had his best game of the series.

Dom Commisso scored what proved to be the game-winner at 1:50 of the third period, a nice toe drag around a London defenceman before slotting it home past netminder Jorday Kooy.

Adam Boqvist scored on the power play three minutes later to set up a final 15 minutes of nailbiting hockey in front of the loudest crowd the Sleeman Centre has seen in quite some time.

They couldn't breathe easy until Nick Suzuki polished off his second consecutive three-point night by firing one into the empty net with 1:37 left in the game.

Isaac Ratcliffe and Jack Hanley had Guelph's other goals. Anthony Popovich, for the third straight game, was outstanding in net.

"I thought our compete tonight was as good as it's been in the series," said Storm coach George Burnett. "It's nice to have an opportunity to play Tuesday."

Guelph surrendered just one power play to the Knights and held them to 12 shots over the first two periods.

"We got some bounces and we got some breaks, but it wasn't from a lack of work tonight. I thought the guys worked hard.

"I'm proud of the way the guys have responded, but there's work to be done. Nothing's been accomplished here yet," Burnett said.